I give my share of presentations. And I have my share of presentation anxiety. This spring, I gave six of ’em. The audiences ranged in size from ten attendees, to 500.
I was preparing for one of my last presentations of the season. My topic skirted the tech field and I was worried that we’d get to the Q&A and a smarty pants in the crowd would ask me a technical question in high falutin’ language designed to make themselves look smart in front of the audience by bringing up a tangentially related topic that they were primed to discuss in detail. Uggggghhhh.
I texted a couple of friends and asked for their advice about how to handle it if one of these kinds of questions came my way. These are the crowd-sourced responses.
What My Friends Are Saying
Did you just make that up?
Professional jargon is its own form of inaccessibility.
Can you say that in English?
[Mute your mic for 30 seconds and come back on with] … So that should take care of your question.
Can you help me out here? I’m having a hard time connecting your question to the presentation.
That’s an oddly specific question.
That could be true, but it’s not relevant.
Well, I could answer that but I don’t want to waste everyone’s time.
I also got some suggestions on how to deflect: tell them I’d be happy to discuss it later. The problem with that is that I have no intention of discussing anything with a smarty pants, now, later, or ever. And, of course, I’m not going to make myself look bad, or defensive, on a recorded line just ’cause they started a game of professional chicken.
I also got super smooth advice like, “We all have something to learn here.” and “Thank you for bringing in that perspective.” I’ll keep those in my back pocket for when I need them.
In the meantime, I’m probably still gonna stress at the prospect of presentations and I really appreciate my friends and colleagues who helped alleviate the pressure by making me laugh with the smarty pants come backs above that I’d love to use! You all are the best.