When it does, it doesn't have to be a disaster, or even difficult. It can be as easy as saying "Great question. I don't know the answer to that, but I will find out and get back to you. See me afterward so I can get your contact information." If that is not appropriate, then at least admit that you don't know the answer.
What will happen if you do that? Will you lose credibility? In truth, some may judge you for it. Especially since as presenters, we are usually being counted on to be the "experts." Here's the hard news: People will know if we bluff. They may only know it as a "feeling," but they will know.
Pretend you have an audience of 100 people, and consider two possible scenarios. In the first scenario, you tell them you don't know the answer to a certain question. Say 13 (a number I just pulled out of thin air) of that audience judge you in some way for not knowing the answer when you "should." The other 82 members of the audience (we'll pretend 5 happen to be asleep) find you more credible because you admit that 1) you're not trying to pretend you are perfect the way so many other people do, 2) you are confident, and mostly 3) you are a person they can trust. The trust and credibility you gain in this scenario is realand substantial.
In scenario 2, say you bluff cleverly, with great expertise and finesse. Half the people in the room may not notice, but (at least) half will have a feeling that something is not quite right. You may have gained some trust or credibility with the half that thinks that you know the answer, but will lose trust with the second half. The slight amount of credibility you do gain with the first half will evaporate like windshield wiper fluid on a hot summer's day when they find out the inevitable contradictory information, or when their sense of intuition kicks in -- whichever comes first.
Which scenario would you rather have?
posted by TJ: August 4, 2010 at 7:26 PM Delete:
I believe that if presenters were less fearful, and focused on connecting with people in the audience, then people would remember what was said. Staying in that comfortable, safe place is what makes speeches, and speakers, so forgettable.
posted by Datta: August 5, 2010 at 8:42 AM Delete:
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