4 thoughts on “Ask the negative in presentations

  1. Japh

    Great advice, Evan! I know I was a “Does that make sense?” asker when I first started speaking, and have since switched to the “Is there anything else you’d like me to clarify before I move on?”. I’ve found I get a much more positive and accurate result that way too.

    I’ve also found that if I ever skip the question entirely, by the time I get to the questions at the end, one of the questions will make me realise that I really shouldn’t have skipped the question.

    A short clarification for someone in the middle of a talk can be the difference between them understanding anything from that point onward or not.

    Thanks for making me think about this :)

    1. evan Post author

      I’ve also found that if I ever skip the question entirely, by the time I get to the questions at the end, one of the questions will make me realise that I really shouldn’t have skipped the question.

      That’s a fair point, and my advice against it is certainly not a rule I’d never break. There are two things that make me lean against asking it. First, it’s not uncommon for skipping it to make the would-be-asker realize that their question would have eventually been sorted out on its own. Second, I am sort of paranoid of presentations getting derailed by a few audience members at the expense of the many others.

      I don’t want to sound like (too much of) a jerk though. I’m perfectly fine with someone stopping me in the middle of a talk to ask for clarification. If someone makes the effort to ask, I’m happy to answer.

      And to reiterate the important point — which we agree on — really anything is better than asking for a show of hands that everybody is totally with you.

      1. Japh

        Absolutely, good point! I should clarify that when I do get someone who takes me up on the offer of clarification, I weigh up a few things:
        a) will I be covering it shortly anyway? If so, say so, and move on.
        b) is it quick to clarify? If so, clarify, and move on.
        c) is it a tangent or lengthy to clarify? If so, let them know I’m happy to come back to it at the end in question time or to see me after the talk, and move on.

        That’s how I handle it anyway, and those (particularly option c) may not be suitable in all instances.

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