Questioning as a Presentation Skill

We find questions and answers fascinating and entertaining – politicians, reporters, celebrities and entrepreneurs are often successful based on their questioning skills – asking the right questions at the right time and also answering (or not) appropriately.

Although questions are usually verbal in nature, they can also be non-verbal.  Raising of the eyebrows could, for example, be asking, “Are you sure?” facial expressions can ask all sorts of subtle questions at different times and in different contexts.
Being an effective presenter has a lot to do with how questions are asked.  Once the purpose of the question has been established you should ask yourself a number of questions:

  • What type of question should be asked.
  • Is the question appropriate to the person/group?
  • Is this the right time to ask the question?
  • How do I expect the respondent will reply?


When actually asking questions – especially in more formal settings some of the mechanics to take into account include:
Although the following list is not exhaustive it outlines the main reasons questions are asked in common situations.

  • To Obtain Information:

The primary function of a question is to gain information – ‘What time is it?’

  • To help maintain control of a conversation

While you are asking questions you are in control of the conversation, assertive people are more likely to take control of conversations attempting to gain the information they need through questioning.

  • Express an interest in the other person

Questioning allows us to find out more about the respondent, this can be useful when attempting to build rapport and show empathy or to simply get to know the other person better.

  • To clarify a point

Questions are commonly used in communication to clarify something that the speaker has said.  Questions used as clarification are essential in reducing misunderstanding and therefore more effective communication.

  • To explore the personality and or difficulties the other person may have

Questions are used to explore the feelings, beliefs, opinions, ideas and attitudes of the person being questioned.  They can also be used to better understand problems that another person maybe experiencing – like in the example of a doctor trying to diagnose a patient.

  • To test knowledge

Questions are used in all sorts of quiz, test and exam situations to ascertain the knowledge of the respondent.  ‘What is the capital of France?’ for example.

  • To encourage further thought

Questions may be used to encourage people think about something more deeply.  Questions can be worded in such a way as to get the person to think about a topic in a new way.  ‘Why do you think Paris is the capital of France?”

  • In group situations

Questioning in group situations can be very useful for a number of reasons, to include all members of the group, to encourage more discussion of a point, to keep attention by asking questions without advance warning.  These examples can be easily related to a classroom of school children.
Most importantly remember that “It is not over till it’s over, goes the saying. And it is not over till you’ve successfully handled whatever questions may come up during or after your presentation”.

Interactive Presentation Skills

Audience interaction makes a presentation more interesting and easier on everyone. It’s helpful to have strategies to get the audience involved early and often. People will pay attention if they know that at some point, they’ll have to participate. And providing the audience the opportunity to interact with each other adds a peer learning dimension to a presentation.

Following are few strategies you can utilize to make your sessions interactive:

Ask for interaction

Start your presentation by telling the audience you want their questions and that you expect interaction. Tell them when you’d like them to ask, and if you’ll have designated times for it.

This will help keep them paying attention and coming up with questions they want to ask you. If you’re speaking at a larger venue, like a conference,

Communicate don’t merely talk to the participants

It has to be a two way process; don’t read out or merely articulate the points on a slide; give examples to illustrate; get them to write/ read/ respond/ reflect/share

Get participants engaged 

Ask questions and get a meaningful reply, throw up challenges; get a volunteer to illustrate on the board or white paper; quiz them, play a game, give them some assignment to do before the breaks, form groups and get them to do a group work.

Encouragement / rewards get them interested 

Be patient, be positive, enable participants to be comfortable by giving them hints and clues to the answers you seek, NEVER be disparaging or sarcastic. If possible introduce some small inducements like giving out something for right answers.

Have variety inbuilt in the program 

A typical day long session would be broadly divided into 4 sessions. The biggest challenge is the post lunch session. Ensure that there is maximum participation in this session by less theoretical inputs and having ample activities and games. The ideal situation is where all key learning points can be illustrated by the participants themselves through an exercise/ game/ activity.

Learn to use humor effectively

Humor is a key ingredient that spurs interest, reinforces learning and grabs the attention of participants. However using humor is tricky because sometimes the gags/ jokes may fall flat, they could be used inappropriately, it could be irrelevant at times and sometimes it could be to caustic and alienate the participant. It is essential that you prepare, practice and then use humour. Once you get the hang of using it well it is one of the most effective means of engaging participants.

Conducting an interactive session is very important to create an effective rapport between the trainer and the audience. Interactive sessions help to create a bridge of communication and confidence between the participants and the trainer. An interactive session helps in a lot of other ways to make the training more effective. Interactive session helps to gain productive information on the interests of the audience and their activities to create effective training modules as per their needs.

Location of Presentations

If you are presenting in a familiar setting (for example, within your own organization) the room and its layout will be familiar. However, you may be presenting at a location that you have never seen before – the boardroom of a host organization, a hotel suite, or an exhibition, for instance. Where this is the case it is important to plan your arrival at the venue well ahead of time.

Whether the presentation venue is known to you or not, there are key questions you need to ask the person organizing the event to ensure that you are properly prepared for the task and understand how to maximize the influence of the venue. It is always advisable to visit the venue’s website prior to your call as this may prompt more detailed questions, such as:

• How easy is the venue to get to by car, rail, or air?

• Does the image of the venue match / suit your audience?

• With regard to the room:
o What is its capacity?
o What floor plan options are available?
o What presentation facilities are available?
o Where are electric sockets?
o Will you need extensions for your electric cables/wires?
o Do you have control over the lighting and heating of the room?

• What types of events are going on in adjacent rooms at that time?

The venue will set the mood for your presentation. An informal gathering in a small cheerful office will create a very different mood to a large conference room in a hotel. There are logistics involved when traveling to a remote location that you need to think carefully about and plan for – for example, organizing any travel tickets, pre-event accommodation, any specialist equipment, support materials, appropriate clothes, etc.

When presenting at an external location you should try to pre-arrange access to the room in which you will be presenting. Even if it is being used immediately before your slot you could try and gain access to this event, as it is important to familiarize yourself with the surroundings. If you are unable to get there early, then you should contact the venue in advance and request a copy of the floor plan, and ask if any specific seating plan has been requested for that day. If it is your own event you can ask what seating arrangement options they offer and select the one most suited to your presentation aim and the size of your audience. It is often wise to ask what events are going on in the adjacent rooms so that you know the atmosphere will be appropriate to your needs. You don’t want to find your room is next to a party when you are giving a business presentation! Always build in some contingency as a safety factor to allow for any unforeseen travel, accommodation, or venue problems.

Presenter Effectiveness

An effective presenter needs to be flexible, energetic and enthusiastic. The following guidelines will help you to enhance your effectiveness as a presenter.

Making a presentation puts you on public display. An audience not only listens to your ideas, it also responds to the way you use your voice and your body. You need more than a well written presentation to make an impact. You will also need to deliver it in a lively, flexible and interesting way. In this leaflet we suggest many ideas for invoking energy in your presentation style.

To begin with, imagine that you are in the audience for your presentation. What might:

  • Grab your attention?
  • Stimulate your imagination?
  • Inspire your confidence?
  • Develop your understanding?

Effective presentation skills are required to provide information, give instruction, sell a plan or idea, or accomplish a combination of these things. Through words and visual aids, a presentation performs a service to the listener. A carefully worded presentation can translate facts, trends, or statistics into basic relationships that will influence policy or actions.

Rudyard Kipling said that “Words are the most powerful drug used by mankind.” After the objective of the presentation has been established, the general form of the presentation must be considered. The message should be communicated in as few words and using as few visual aids as necessary to present a plan or idea effectively. A concise, convincing presentation of 10-minutes’ duration may accomplish readily the desired objective – and be more economical – than one lasting an hour. In other words, the effectiveness of the presentation depends more upon the soundness of the message than its length, the presenter’s skill in delivery, or the quality of the visual aids. However, too long a presentation, lack of skill in its delivery, and/or poor visual aids could spell disaster.

Continuously explore your personal style using any or all of the above suggestions in different combinations for different effects. Above all, remember two main points:

  • Be yourself— even in the most formal of surroundings you will need to be yourself. No one will be impressed if you try to perform like a classical actor or act like a stand-up comedian;
  • Avoid any behavior that might be off-putting to your audience— always be deliberate and clear in your use of your voice and physical actions.

Finally we can say that an effective presenter makes the best use of the relationship between the him/her  and the audience. It takes full consideration of the audience’s needs in order to capture their interest, develop their understanding, inspire their confidence and achieve the presenter’s objectives and that’s what a presenter’s effectiveness is all about.

Getting Ready for Presentation

Your pulse is racing, your palms are sweating and your knees are knocking as you step up to the microphone. You clear your throat, glimpse down at your notes, and feel all eyes focused on you. Your mind goes blank. You can’t remember how you wanted to start. Your heart pounds in your chest so loudly you’re sure the audience can hear it, and you swear to yourself you’ll never give a presentation again. And then you wake up.

As a leader or manager, you are going to give a presentation to a meeting, team, suppliers, customers and even maybe the general public at some point.

For many presenting is a real challenge. In fact some claim that presenting is the thing people fear most. Interestingly it is also claimed that death is number 6 on the things people fear most.

Fear of speaking isn’t a chronic, untreatable disease. While you may never avoid a flutter of nerves, you can learn to manage them at a comfortable level. The best, most fool-proof way to become comfortable and confident in the spotlight is to practice. Forget the old, inaccurate adage “practice makes perfect.” Practice makes prepared.

And yes, it’s true: The secret behind those speakers we label as “naturals” is preparation. There is no such thing as a born speaker, which means that you have the opportunity to improve your speaking skills no matter what your experience is.

So when you are getting ready to deliver a presentation, how can you get in the zone and deliver at your best time and time again? The truth is it will vary from person to person but here are a few options to consider.

  • Take a Brisk Walk

Now this might not work for everyone but what I have found that taking a brisk walk is a great way of getting in the zone. If possible give it a try.

  • Do Some Tongue Twisters

It is really easy to get tongue tied in a presentation. Using tongue twisters can be a great way of reducing the risk of getting tongue tied. Basically you repeat a phrase over and over, getting faster each time. Two of my favourites are ‘Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Pepper’ and ‘She Sells Sea Shells on the Sea Shore’.

  • Deep Breathing

Taking a really deep breath in and exhaling slowly can slow down your heart rate and calm you down. This is really helpful if you know that you have a tendency to gallop through your presentation.

  • Visualisation

Many people mentally go through and visualise themselves giving a great presentation. This is very common in sports but can be applied just as well to presentation preparation.


The truth is there is no right or wrong way to prepare for delivering a presentation and the key is to find what works best for you.

Situational Vocabulary – Presentations

Unlike the other situations, presentations also require certain jargons that justify situations and various speeches.

Some of the suitable vocabularies are:-

Audience rapport – relationship of presenter with audience, esp. when good

Body language -non-verbal communication through facial expressions, body movements etc

Finally . . . Typical word used to signal the last of several points or subjects

Flip chart  – a pad of large paper sheets on a stand for presenting information

For example . . . Typical phrase used to signal an illustration or sample of a particular point

Handout n. anything (report, sample etc) handed or given to people at a presentation

In conclusion . . . Typical phrase used to signal the summing up or final part of a presentation

Ladies & gentlemen – Polite phrase often used to address an audience of men and women

Marker  –  whiteboard marker a pen with a broad, felt tip for writing on whiteboards

Microphone – an electrical instrument that one speaks into for amplification of the voice etc

O.H.T.  –  overhead transparency; sheet of film with image for overhead projector

Overhead projector  – device that projects an o.h.t. onto a screen – O.H.P. abbr.

Pointer – device (rod or electric torch etc) for indicating things on a map, screen etc

Screen – large, flat, reflective white surface on which films, slides etc are projected

Signal – to help the audience understand where one is in a presentation signalling

Slide –  small (usually 35mm) photographic transparency – slide projector

To start with . . . Typical phrase used to signal the beginning of a particular subject or topic

Turning now to . . . Typical phrase used to signal a change from one subject or topic to another

Visual aids – things that one can look at in a presentation [eg: films, maps, charts etc]

Whiteboard –  large, flat, white surface or board on which to write or draw with markers

Alliteration – Repetition of the beginning sounds of words.

Analogy– resemblance in some respects between things that are other wise disfimiliar.

Anecdote– a short account of an incident

Antithesis – balanced juxraposition of two contrasting ideas.

Some easy presentation vocabularies are:-

Team, Teamwork, Teleprompter, Television, Tendency, Theme, Thorough, Threat, Time, Tip, Tone, Topic, Treatment, Truth, Two sides, Type, Type

Unclear, Understanding, Unintended, Unscripted

Vehemence, Viewer, Vital, Vitriol, Vocal, Voice, Volume

Wander, Weak, Weighty, Well done, Well-meaning, Well-spoken, Willingness, Win, Wow, Written

Accept, Acclaim, Ad lib, Aggressive, Allusion, Ambiance, Ambiguous, Anecdotal, Animosity, Answers, Argue, Argumentative, Articulate, Assert, Audience, Audio, Authoritative, Avoid, Award

Basics, Beat, Belief, Blunder, Boring, Brief, Butterflies

Candid, Careful, Casual, Caution, Cautious, Charismatic, Churn, Clarity, Class, Classic, Clever, Coach, Combative, Comfortable, Commentary, Communication, Compete, Competition, Compose, Composed, Comprehensive, Concise, Conclusion, Confidence, Conflict, Confusion, Content, Controversial, Convincing, Course, Credible, Cue

Debate, Declaration, Deliberate, Delivery, Description, Development, Difference, Disagreement, Discourse, Discovery, Discuss, Discussion, Disorganized, Dispute, Diverse, Duration

Ease, Educate. efforts, Enthusiasm, Exaggerate, Exchange, Expression, Expressive, Extemporaneous

Excellence in Public Speaking & Presentation Skills

Good public speaking skills are equally important in life. You might have to deliver a speech at a friend’s wedding, prepare a note for a loved one, or inspire a group of volunteers at a charity event. In short, being a good public speaker can enhance your reputation, boost your self-confidence, and open up countless opportunities.

However, while good skills can open doors, poor ones can close them. For example, your boss might decide against promoting you after sitting through a badly-delivered presentation. You might lose a valuable new contract by failing to connect with a prospect during a sales pitch. Or you could make a poor impression with your new team, because you trip over your words and don’t look people in the eye.

Ways to Improve Your Presentation Skill

  • If the first two parts of successful public speaking are caring and preparing, the third part is practicing and improving your presentation skills.
  • If you have a tape recorder or, even better, a video camera, record yourself giving the talk from beginning to end. Then listen to it or watch it, and make notes on how you could make it better.
  • If you’ve a video camera, look into the camera and use the same facial expressions and the same body gestures that you would use if you were speaking directly to someone. When you critique yourself, be very hard on yourself. Remember, the more honest and objective you can be about how you come across to others, the faster you will build effective communication skills for success.
  • Practice makes perfect, and perfect practice makes it even more perfect.  If you practice consistently, you will find that your presentation skills have dramatically improved over time.

Remember, your ability to speak effectively in front of people can do more to advance your career and your life than perhaps any other skill you can develop.

Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking

It’s normal and natural for you to be nervous about public speaking, but you must overcome that fear to improve your presentation skills. Most people become nervous and uneasy at the very thought of standing up to speak in front of an audience, and their hearts pound.

When you speak, try to engage your audience. This makes you feel less isolated as a speaker and keeps everyone involved with your message. If appropriate, ask leading questions targeted to individuals or groups, and encourage people to participate and ask questions.

Public speaking is a critical, but often underdeveloped, skill among higher education professionals. Your ability to convey ideas with confidence and clarity is essential for articulating the importance of your research, getting buy-in for your projects and obtaining funding from sponsors.

Taking Feedback during Presentations

Even those who excel at their jobs can always find room for improvement and growth. We all have strengths and weaknesses. If you don’t know what your weaknesses are, you will never overcome them. You may think you are really great at something, but others may perceive this differently.

Taking Feedback

You need to obtain feedback from your audience for two distinct reasons. First, you need feedback to make sure that your audience is hearing and understanding your message. Second, you need feedback to help you do a better job on your next presentation.

To ensure that everyone is hearing and understanding you, maintain eye contact with your audience and invite questions.

Use eye contact

The only way to know how the members of your audience are responding to you is to look at them. If the entire back row has fallen asleep, they probably can’t hear you. If members of the audience have turned their attention to their calendars or to the stack of reading materials they brought with them, you have lost their attention and will have to do something to regain it.

Invite questions

Let your audience know in advance whether you prefer to receive questions at the end of the presentation or as you go along. Some speakers think that in formal situations, questions should be held until the end—or at least until the end of logical units. The concern is that questions may interrupt the flow of the presentation. In general, however, questions are best asked when they occur so that they can be related to the topic being discussed.

When someone has a question, others probably have the same question, which suggests a need for clarification. If a question anticipates a point that you will be addressing later in the presentation, you can ask the person to hold the question until that point by saying something like, “That’s a good question, and I will be addressing that issue in a few minutes. I’d appreciate it if you’d ask your question at that time.”

To take feedback for the second objective of doing a better job with your next presentation, do the following:

Analyze the audience’s questions

Keep track of the questions the members of your audience ask, and then revise your presentation to ensure that you provide better coverage of the topics they asked about during your next presentation.

Invite evaluation

When it’s appropriate for you to do so, request an evaluation of your presentation by your supervisor or a trusted colleague. In sales situations, you can often ask for and receive feedback from one or more of the people to whom you presented after they have made the decision about whether to buy from you.

Remember that the feedback does you no good unless you act on what you have learned. Not every comment you receive will be valid, but if four or five people tell you that you need to speak more slowly or more quickly, you would do well to change the pace of your delivery.

How to Deliver Effective Presentation

Presentations are mostly practiced by students and professionals, and they are a great way to convey ideas as well as educate and convince people. A good presenter has the ability to engage his or her listeners from beginning to end and compel them to take action. Becoming a competent, rather than just confident, speaker requires a lot of practice.

Presentation can be daunting, whether it is your first time speaking in public or your 100th, a lecture at a university study day or a school project, well-prepared or not,.

While it is true that some individuals are definitely born with this gift of speaking, the overwhelming majority of effective speakers have trained themselves to be so. The best way is to gain experience, but there are ways which can help you appear confident.

Here are some tips of public speaking that that you can keep in mind the next time you find yourself presenting before a group.

But here are a few tips you can consider to start sharpening your presentation skills:

  1. Be Entertaining – Speeches should be entertaining and informative. I’m not saying you should act like a dancing monkey when giving a serious presentation.
  2. Eye Contact – Match eye contact with everyone in the room. I’ve also heard from salespeople that you shouldn’t focus all your attention on the decision maker since secretaries and assistants in the room may hold persuasive sway over their boss.
  3. Research – The better prepared you are for your speech or lecture, the better the speech will be. It is better to be over prepared than under.
  4. When you make a mistake, no one cares but you – Even the most accomplished public speaker will make a mistake at some point.  The most important thing a speaker can do after making a mistake is to keep going.  Don’t stop and—unless the mistake was truly earth shattering—never apologize to the audience for a minor slip.
  5. Practice makes perfectly good – Your goal is not to be a perfect public speaker but to be an effective public speaker.  Like anything else in life, it takes practice.  We too often take communication for granted because we speak to people everyday. But when your prosperity is directly linked to how well you perform in front a group, you need to give the task the same attention as if you were a professional athlete. Remember, even world champion athletes practice every day.  Try taking a class where you practice giving speeches.
  6. Revise – Always read your notes before you arrive at the venue so it is fresh in your mind which will eliminate a total reliance on notes. Also remember that you are the only one who knows EXACTLY what you intend to speak about, so if you miss something out no one else will know.
  7. Be excited while speaking – Don’t let being anxious or nervous lower your confidence. Embrace it by expressing it as excitement and enthusiasm.

Difficult Situations & Nerves during Presentation

You need to develop some strategies and techniques to manage your nerves so you can concentrate on delivering an effective and engaging presentation.

To harness your nervousness and bring it under control, there are six key tips to remember. These tips are designed to help you focus on your audience and their needs rather than on yourself and how you are feeling.

Six Steps to Conquering Your Presentation Nerves

Know Your Audience

The more confident you are that you are presenting them with useful and interesting material for them, the less nervous you will be overall. You really don’t want your presentation to be a surprise. If it is, you lose complete control over the audience’s reaction and that is a large factor in nervousness. So:

Know Your Material

Nothing is worse than trying to give a presentation on a topic you are not well prepared for. This doesn’t mean you have to be an expert beforehand, but you’d better know it backwards on presentation day. And making sure you’ve understood your audience and their needs properly will help you ensure that your material is on target to meet their needs.

Structure Your Presentation

A common technique for trying to calm nervousness is memorizing what you intend to say. But all this does is make your delivery sound like it is coming from a robot. If you miss a word or draw a blank, your whole presentation is thrown off and then your nervousness compounds itself with every remaining second.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Although you should avoid memorizing your presentation, you do want to be very comfortable with your delivery. Familiarity brings confidence, and practice helps you to deliver the words naturally.

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

You also need to prepare yourself for the actual delivery.

  • Decide what you are going to wear – make it comfortable and appropriate.
  • Arrive early and get your equipment set up.
  • Anticipate problems and have backups and contingencies in place in case something doesn’t work, you forget something, etc.
  • If possible, give everything one last run through in the real environment.
  • Prepare responses to anticipated questions. Try to think like that one person in the front row who always tries to trip the presenter up.

Calm Yourself from the Inside

  • Practice deep breathing. By breathing deeply your brain will get the oxygen it needs and the slower pace will trick your body into believing you are calmer.
  • Have a glass of water handy. Take sips occasionally, especially when you want to emphasize a point.
  • Smile – this is a natural relaxant that sends positive chemicals through your body.
  • Use visualization techniques  – imagine that you are delivering your presentation to an audience that is interested, enthused, smiling, and reacting positively. Cement this positive image in your mind and recall it right before you are ready to go on.

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