Top Ten Business Presentation Questions Answered

With its new film release Winning Presentations, SagePresence tackles ten corporate presentation questions.After a recent webinar on presentation skills, SagePresence received this list of questions from business presenters.

#10: Robert M. asked: “How do I talk about fiery subjects that anger me? I want to show passion, but not anger at my audience.”

Robert, there’s nothing wrong with anger in a presentation. Anger shows seriousness and drive. But you don’t want to scare your audience. There’s a simple trick called the “appreciation sandwich.” Package anger within two parts of appreciation. Warmly appreciate people first, then free yourself to get authentically angry. When you’ve made your point, ease back into appreciation to soothe the room for a safe environment of emotional sharing.

#9: John I. asked: “My team regularly presents to live audiences. What immediately available resources would you recommend for further development?

Fresh off the press is our 2016 release of Winning Presentations, a Film & Workbook product available right here.It’s a great fast-track to the building blocks of great business storytelling.

#8: Bob D. asked: “My challenge is vocal variety or tone. Any techniques to improve this?

Bob, pitch and tone are controlled by emotion. Practice feeling happy, mad, and sad to various degrees based one what you’re saying. Changing emotions inherently shifts vocal tone. Also, practice alternating between fast and slow, or loud and soft. Instantly, these practices create modulated variety. Don’t try them all at once. Practice each separately to build different muscle memories of modulated highs and lows.

#7: Stephanie S. asked: “Do you have to be passionate about your speech to be effective?

No, I suppose not, but why speak about anything you don’t care about? Ask yourself, “What about this topic could I care about? What problems, solutions, and outcomes surround it?” If your subject is truly flat for you, try turning it into a facilitation, and draw on the audience’s passion instead.

#6: Robert F. asked: “I don’t feel like I’ve connected to an audience until I’ve made them laugh. Is that a crutch?

People laugh with those they know and trust, so when you make your audience laugh, you’re creating a sense of familiarity. I don’t think it’s a crutch, but I don’t always start out with a joke either. If humor really helps me illustrate the topic, I do it. Humor isn’t a must, yet I’ve seldom given a presentation that didn’t get a few relevant laughs.

#5: William C. asked: “In unstructured presentations, like a job interview, how do you tell your stories without going too long and boring the interviewer?

People don’t always know when to stop. Scope is managed through a simple formula. Who from your past faced what problem? What solution did you provide? What was the positive outcome? Make an effort to cover these four things as efficiently as possible, and know that you’re done when you’ve covered all four.  This Main Character/Problem/Solution/Outcome format works just as well in Q&A too.

#4: Kevin A. asked: “What tips do you have for presenting to a group when you just don’t have enough time to prepare fully?”

Story structure can be really helpful for this too. You don’t need a tremendous amount of time to ask yourself the four most important questions before you deliver any presentation: Who is my audience? What problematic situation has brought them here? What do I need to do with them? What do they need to walk out with? This won’t necessarily generate all the content of your presentation, but by delivering your answers out loud at the beginning, you’ll be focused and organized, and you’ll make sure your audience gets what they came for.

#3: Liz W. asked: “Do you recommend holding questions off until the end of a presentation? Or allow people to ask questions throughout? And how can you keep a question from derailing you?”

I like to encourage people to ask questions whenever they have them, and I try to give a quick answer. If the answer is so big that it’s going to take a while, then it can definitely derail the flow I’m intending. In those cases, I put the topic in a “Parking Lot,” and get back to it if time allows. And if not, I offer to meet after the presentation to discuss the question.

#2: Nate H. asked: “Strictly in a day-to-day working meeting, how would I use Beginning/Middle/End? Say I’ve got 20 decisions that need to be made in an hour?

Beginning/Middle/End is the same as Problem/Solution/Outcome. It’s how I recommend you make your 20 decisions. Let’s say someone wants more budget. Well, what’s the problem? How will “more budget” solve that problem? What outcome will that create? Get your team to agree on the problem (beginning) and outcome (end) first, and then look at the solution. The B/E/M order will help you see what solutions will truly work. Plus, it teaches your team to understand how you make your decisions. As an added bonus, they can start to anticipate your decisions and save you even more time by offering up solutions themselves!

#1: Shawn S. asked: “When facilitating discussions around diversity, how would you recommend telling a story to evoke action? How would a not-so-happy ending help?

Beginning and End create motivation for the action. Organizations need a negative to push away from, and a positive to pull toward. “Right now, our company isn’t a reflection of the people we serve, and that’s negatively affecting our perception in the marketplace. If we can transition to become a truly diverse team, we can change that perception and be perceived as a better fit to our clientele.” Do you see how beginning and end evoke the action? Here’s another example: “We claim we want the best ideas, but we’re literally recycling the same ones over and over. A truly diverse team would bring different points of view. That’s the only way that we can generate a diverse pool of ideas from which to truly pick the best.”


So that’s it! The top 10 questions inspired by our recent webinar! But I would kick myself if I didn’t include this next question that got to one of my favorite topics around presenting. So I’m throwing it in here as an added bonus.


BONUS QUESTION — Pattie T. asked: “Which element of presenting is the most important?

Pattie, the three equally powerful elements are Message, Connection, and Dynamism. If I had to pick one, I’d pick Dynamism, and inside it I’d pick emotion as the most important factor. If you have emotion, you have passion, and a shot at inspiring someone. (My business parter Pete Machalek would likely choose Message, because story ensures that you’re going to somewhere better, from somewhere worse, with defined action.) For me, heart is what this world needs the most.

Be sure to check out our followup post on sales presentations, and check out our preview to our 2016 film release: Winning Presentations.

And please, share your thoughts below about these questions and answers, and any questions you have about presenting!


  1. naz on January 21, 2016 at 2:10 pm

    This is indeed ‘sage’ advice on this topic….Congrats&Thanks…N-j0y…nAz

    • Dean Hyers on January 22, 2016 at 4:19 am

      Thanks Naz, and be sure to fuel us with new questions so we have more angles to share value.

  2. Dan D on January 21, 2016 at 3:40 pm

    I really enjoyed these questions and answers, and your other postings. They’re applicable to business and other areas of life where communication is important. Thanks!

    • Dean Hyers on January 21, 2016 at 7:15 pm

      Thank you, Dan. That means a lot to us. And we’re always looking for the next “zinger.” Give us a hard one and we’ll make it the next post!

  3. Shawn Sorrell on January 22, 2016 at 4:54 pm

    Thanks Dean, I too really enjoyed these questions and answers and appreciate your response to my question, “Organizations need a negative to push away from, and a positive to pull toward.” Very helpful reminder. Thanks

    • Dean Hyers on January 23, 2016 at 9:25 am

      You’re welcome, Shawn. “Action” is what you’re selling to the audience in a diversity presentation, and the “problem to outcome journey” is all you have to motivate them to take that action. So they need to feel it, which means that you need to feel it when you present it. People don’t take action until they feel something, so the experience of problems (situation and feeling) and target outcomes (situation and feeling) are how you provide the emotional motivation to act. Most people agree with diversity messages, but they don’t do anything about it. The diversity presenter is always up against that struggle to inspire action. So have a clear action, and package that between the emotional journey from problem to outcome and it should increase buy-in.

  4. […] Read more.  […]

    • Dean Hyers on February 10, 2016 at 8:37 pm

      Thanks for connecting us!

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