Presenters sometimes get easy, softball questions after presentations but not always. It seems like there is always at least one person who asks a prickly or hostile question.

It is obviously very important to handle moments of pushback like these with composure to maintain your own credibility and listeners’ goodwill. Here are a few important tips for responding well to hostile questions.

First, do not repeat the negative language of the person asking the question. Let’s say they ask, “Don’t you think the costs are ridiculously high for that proposal?” You do not want to begin your answer by saying, “No, I don’t think the costs are ridiculously high . . .” It’s not a great way to begin an answer when those negative words are coming out of your own mouth.

Instead, I recommend using a cost-benefit-analysis style format to respond to hostile questions. The basic philosophy of this approach is to acknowledge the cost or downside implied in the question but quickly pivot to the benefits of the direction you are suggesting.

See the video for specific details and examples for crafting your response.

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