Few public speaking situations have made me as nervous as when I had to present my senior thesis to the Communications department. Everything I had worked so hard for and watched my parents sacrifice for came down to one presentation on propaganda and the pressure was on. I knew that there would be questions about my research. When I wrapped up, I stood at the front of the room with nothing but blank faces staring back at me.
No questions? I was shocked. They simply thanked me and I was allowed to leave the hall. I convinced myself that no questions meant I had failed. I didn't.(Thank goodness).
At the end of a presentation, you expect there to be rapid fire questions coming from every point of the audience. What happens when you wrap up the presentation, ask anyone if they have questions, and there is nothing but silence?
Before stepping out on the stage to make your presentation, you should be prepared for the event that no one is going to have a question at the end. Have a list prepared with a couple of additional notes to your presentation that you can offer if no one has any questions.
Ask Friends Before Hand
One of the things about asking questions on a conference call or face to face is that there is a hesitation to being the first person to speak up. Before the presentation, find a friend or co-worker and ask them if they would be willing to offer up a question if no one jumps in, just to get the ball rolling. You'd be surprised how many people will chime in once someone starts the Q&A off.
Wrap it Up
Not having any questions after a presentation might signal a need to wrap things up and hand the stage over to the next speaker. If their truly are no questions, it will be very awkward for you and the audience if you just hang around onstage. If you don't want to wrap up you presentation early, open a dialogue with your participants and see if you can't get them talking to you, instead of the other way around.
Provide Another Way to Ask
Maybe the presentation you're making is on a sensitive subject or everyone has simply succumb to shyness that day. Either way, you should give your participants a different way to ask questions. Some may prefer email or they simply won't think of a great question until it's time to put your suggestions into action.
When you open the floor for questions and all you hear are the crickets and papers shuffling - it doesn't always mean you didn't do a great job. Q&A sessions are very helpful for both you and the participants listening in so when things don't go your way at Q&A time, it doesn't mean you have to disconnect or leave the stage feeling like a failure. What do you do at the end of your presentation and there is nothing but silence?