What do you do when your presentation gets interrupted by a question from the audience and you were planning to answer the point a few slides down? Answering it will disrupt your carefully designed story flow. Not answering it might upset the audience. My suggested approach differs by presentation setting.

  • For huge audiences (a big TED talk for example), you are unlikely to be interrupted.
  • For slightly smaller audiences, you can say that people should hold of questions until the end of the presentation. After that, only hacklers can still decide to interrupt you.
  • If you get a question in a presentation for a big group of people, I would answer it really briefly (yes, good point, we do have a blue colour option) and say that you will get to it in more detail later on, look a way from the asker to stop the dialogue.
  • In smaller meetings, you can sometimes completely go off script and let the audience guide your presentation. A good example would be a pitch to partners in a VC firm, where they read the material beforehand and have a number of very specific questions they want to see answered. Being stubborn here and sticking to your script will upset the meeting.
  • In one on one meetings you need to read the body language of the person sitting in front of you. When someone keeps on asking what it is that your product actually does, it is better to kill off the issue rather than have the person sitting and guessing with a frown on her face until you get to the right point in your presentation. A person who is guessing, is not listening to what you say.

In short, the smaller the audience, and the better prepared they are, the more story flow disruption you can allow.