People often feel uncomfortable and unnatural while speaking in front of an audience—especially if an audience member asks a question that they're completely unprepared for.
In a recent article for Fast Company, executive speaking coach Anett Grant offers four ways to respond to questions that put you on the spot.
1: Float. If you get a question that's highly specific and would be better answered by someone you manage, Grant recommends elevating the question up to your level by connecting it to a larger issue that's more aligned with your area of responsibility.
2: Go with the Flow. You may get questions that you can't answer based on your own experience. Instead of looking backward and scrambling to think of a relevant example, Grant recommends thinking hypothetically about what you might do if you were faced with that situation in the future.
How to project confidence while public speaking
3: Re-Focus. Sometimes, an audience member will ask a question that seems completely irrelevant, such as why someone else made a decision you weren't involved in. Grant suggests steering the conversation back to yourself and your main topic, such as explaining what you would have done in that situation and why.
4: Flatter. When you do get a question you truly can't answer, take two steps, Grant suggests. First, express your gratitude and the value of the question. Then, explain that you plan to look into it, which shows the audience member that you're taking the question seriously (Grant, Fast Company, 11/15).
How to make public speaking a walk in the bark—er, park
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