12 Days of Confidence

Day 6

One of the most common worries I hear is this: “I’m really nervous about presenting, because I might get a question I can’t answer”. We worry about a question that doesn’t even exist yet, and spend time and energy trying to prepare and plan for that question. One which, again, doesn’t exist yet.

This makes it even worse when the questions do come – we’ve been worrying about them for so long, that they trigger a fight or flight response in us. And now, suddenly, we’re not in control anymore. We go on high alert, and every question feels like a bullet to dodge, or a ninja to fight in the dark.

But questions are, in fact, a good thing! Here’s what you need to tell yourself:

If your audience is asking questions, that means they care. They’re listening. They’re engaged. Questions don’t prove anything about what people think of you or your content. It just means they want to find out more – which is great!

A superb lightbulb moment on this subject came during an online team training workshop. The group were preparing to present to their new boss. A testing time for anyone, I’m sure you agree! Each of them began the session sharing their worries, their assumptions, and many of them were along similar lines…..”what if she asks me a tough question about ______? I think she is going to be super focussed on ______. What if I don’t have the data that is requested? I’ll be so embarrassed. I’ll totally freak out”.

 

The team wrestled with ideas about how to cover all this ground and prep for every scenario until finally someone said, “We can’t answer everything, maybe we should just be cool with not knowing”. So I had each of them rehearse how to stay cool headed for Q&A, how to say, with calm and confidence “I don’t know the answer” and reminded them: questions simply seek to understand not to attack.

So the next time you start worrying about facing questions, remind yourself of that, and try to take the questions as what they are: just a request for deeper understanding.