The ABCs of handling questions during your medical presentation

Questions from the audience can be stressful, especially if you don't know the answer or don't get any questions at all. Learn how to deal with both situations.

Kathleen D. Pagana, PhD CSP™
Kathleen D. Pagana, PhD CSP™
15th Aug 2017 • 3m read

Questions from the audience can be stressful, especially if you don't know the answer or don't get any questions at all.

This video will teach you how to deal with both situations. It contains several hands-on tips and tricks to boost your success rate on grand-rounds, talks at conferences, or wherever else you want to speak. Don't sweat it, the folks in the audience are just human beings like yourself!

The video was taken from our hands-on and CME accredited Presentation Essentials for Clinicians course.

Video Transcript

[00:00:00] For some speakers, the Q & A section can be intimidating and add a lot of stress to the presentation. It is best to tell your audience early in your presentation when you will be taking questions. Your options could be—save them to the end, take them at a break or take them any time during the presentation. For whatever option you choose, if you follow the ABC strategy for handling questions, you will be more prepared for questions. A—anticipate.

[00:00:30] Try to anticipate what questions may be asked then practice how you would answer that question. Write down the questions that you got or have a colleague write them down for you because most likely you will get those questions again in the future. The next time, you will be better prepared with your answer. You may also find that due to widespread interest in that particular question, you decide to incorporate the information into your next presentation. B—be brief. Answer the question briefly without a lot of background information.

[00:01:00] Be sure to either repeat the question or answer in a full sentence. If the person who asked the question wants more information, he or she will ask. I attended a lecture about the use of biologics and the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Somebody asked a question about the main benefit of biologics. The speaker gave a five-minute convoluted answer that addressed research, development, FDA approval, and many other things. Finally, the last sentence addressed the question of benefits. The speaker

[00:01:30] then asked if anybody else had any more questions. There were only two minutes left before the end of the presentation. No one had any. No one wanted another five-minute answer. No one wanted to go over time. C—keep control. As the speaker you need to remain in control of the topic and the audience. If questions take you off topic, you need to get back on track. If a person dominates the Q & A, you need to take control. These people are often called stage hogs. If unrestrained,

[00:02:00] they can derail your presentation, act early and discourage this disruptive behavior. For example, you may say thanks for your questions but I want to give others a chance as well. I would be happy to speak more with you after the session. If that doesn't work, make the stage hog responsible for slowing down the presentation. For example, we're supposed to end at 4 PM, is it okay with the rest of you to move on so we can end on time? You may be thinking, what if someone asks a question and I don't know the answer? Be honest,

[00:02:30] and then you have three options. Ask if someone else knows the answer. Say you don't know but you'll get back to the person. Write the question down and ask the person to give you contact information before he or she leaves. And the third option, if you know where the information can be found, tell the person, for example, I can't recall that answer but I know it is on the American Cancer Society website. One final tip, when someone in the audience asks the question, many presenters make the mistake of responding with their attention

[00:03:00] focused only on that one person. It is much better to begin in and end focusing on the person who asked the question but give eye contact to other people in the audience during your answer. This keeps you connected to the whole audience. If you enjoy this video, make sure to check out our medical presentation essentials course and register for a free trial account, which will give you access to selected videos and quizzes from the course. You can earn CME credits

[00:03:30] with every Medmastery course. If you want to learn more about how Medmastery can help you become a great clinician, be sure to watch the About Medmastery video.