Presentation Fails and How to Fix Them #19: Questions?

There are various ways to end a presentation badly, such as:

  • running out of time
  • just trailing off: “so… I think that’s… yeah, that’s, that’s it.”
  • “So, does anyone have any questions?”

I see a lot of presentations which finish with that last one, where the final slide says ‘Questions?’. What follows in my experience is usually an awkward silence, which may be punctured by a question if you’re lucky; unpleasant and not exactly inspiring. For me, it undermines everything that has preceded it by stepping on any applause and passing the focus onto the audience. I find this so disheartening, because it’s a frustrating piece of accidental self-sabotage which most people seem to think is the correct way to finish a presentation. Wroooong.

Q and A

But the audience needs to have an opportunity to ask questions, right Jon?

Of course, but you have to make sure it happens at the right time. Please remember: you need a neat, satisfying conclusion, not something limp and open-ended. A good way to do this to link to your opening statement to tie it all together. Wrap everything up properly with an assertive call-to-action and then thank your audience; THAT’S the audience’s cue to applaud if they want to. THEN, if there are any questions, they’ll happen of their own accord, not because you prompted them. The beauty of this technique is that the audience is trying to ask questions, instead of you trying to get people to ask them; a very important difference. Also, you can make questions a valuable commodity: if anyone asks a question, you can then say that there’s only time a for a few. Ooh, rarity.

Wrap It Up
  1. Finish with a clear conclusion.
  2. Thank your audience.
  3. Roll with what happens; this could be tonnes of questions or a complete silence. Whatever it is, it’s fine.
Related Things

Here’s my YouTube video on the whole ‘Questions’ thang.

Good Luck, 007. Don’t Cock It Up

Nail the Presentation – Start Well

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