So you’ve just given a great presentation and you’ve moved into the Q&A. Someone asks you a question and you don’t know the answer. What should you do?
- Make up an answer?
- Admit you don’t know but promise to find out the answer?
- Throw the question to the audience?
Let’s look at each course of action:
Make up an answer?
Never make up an answer. It’s not ethical and it will catch up with you eventually. Don’t fall into the trap that you have to know everything because you are the speaker. You’ve already proven your expertise in your presentation. Remember: nobody likes a know-it-all. You don’t have anything to prove, except perhaps your humbleness.
Admit you don’t know but promise to find out the answer?
This is an acceptable way to handle the situation but be sure that you do indeed follow up with an answer and that you do so in a timely manner.
Throw the question to the audience?
I believe this is the best of the three choices. It engages the audience and often provides an insightful discussion. You can say something to the effect of “That’s a great question. I don’t have an answer. What do you the rest of you think? How would you handle this?” I sometimes throw questions to the audience even when I do know the answer just to see what others think. “I have an idea but I’d really like to hear what everyone else thinks.”
The Q&A in public speaking and business presentations is a great way to engage your audience and a great opportunity to be inclusive with other ideas and other points of view.