The good thing about a presentation during a meeting in English? You can prepare and practice it. The bad thing? You often face a question & answer session at the end.

Unless you have telepathic powers, you never know what the Q&A session holds for you.

Sure, you can anticipate questions that your audience in the meeting room might ask. You can also admit that you already know this, but you dont’ always do it…

Sure, you can ask the person to repeat the question. Then, 8 times out of 10, they repeat the question, you still dont’ understand much, and then you’re trapped.

You panic. You pray for the fire alarm to sound. You wish someone would volunteer to answer the question for you. But the only thing that happens is…silence. And the sound of your heart as it pulses a million miles an hour.

Now what?

Fortunately, Bird Office has a few options that will save your ego.

1/ Reformulate the question we ask you after the presentation

Yes, this means that you need to understand something already. Even if you only caught a few words, or the (very, very) general idea of the question, try to reformulate.

The advantage is that, even if you didnt’ understand everything the other person said, you always understand everything you say. (Except maybe at a late Saturday night party, but thats’ a different scenario completely…)

Reformulate and ask the audience member to confirm that youv’e got it correct. Then proceed to answer the question as best you can. Disaster avoided. Ego saved.

2/ Pass the question on to a colleague

This one is a bit like a bandage you put on a wound. It covers the problem and makes you look better, but its’ just a temporary solution. And at some point, your colleague will probably enjoy ripping that bandage off your hairy arm. Take that to mean that he will take revenge by passing a difficult question on to you the next time your’e in a meeting together.

If you have a colleague who speaks better English than you, has more knowledge of the subject than you, and who isnt’ making that “I didnt’ understand anything” face, pass the question on to him or her. Just swallow your pride and do it. And then, after the meeting, offer to buy your colleague a coffee every day for a week.

3/ Admit that you dont’ understand

This one will not so easy for some of you. Remember that ego of yours? Be reassured, its’ ok to say “I’m sorry, but I dont’ understand your what your’e asking.” It happens between native speakers all the time.

Maybe the person asking the question has terrible communication skills. Perhaps their question is also unclear for the other meeting participants. In this case, just say so.

You can, of course, offer that they come talk to you privately after the meeting. Or if its’ a conf call, ask them to email their question to you. Say that you want time to think, or that you need to search for some key information. Just dont’ panic. You know how to handle the situation like a pro!

The question and answer session is perhaps the most frightening part of a presentation during a meeting or conf call. You never know whats’ going to happen, but now at least you can be prepared to take whatever the other participants throw at you!

Learn expressions for implementing all of these tips with the video lesson “Responding to questions in English when you dont’ understand.”

An American living in France since 2004, Christina coaches clients to better communicate in English through face-to-face and distance training programs. With her YouTube channel Speak Better, Feel Great TV, she is on a mission to boost the English level of French people everywhere. If youv’e got a presentation in English soon, youl’l definitely want to sign up for her Speak Better, Feel Great Newsletter to receive free video lessons each week!