You've got all the answers. Or...do you? When you're a subject matter expert presenting to a crowd, you may feel you have to have an answer to every question someone could possibly dream up. But, what if someone in the crowd asks a question that has you stumped? In today's presentation skills training "What If...", Kerri Garbis has an answer to the question, "What if I don't have an answer?"
What if someone asks a question I don’t know the answer to?
Answer from Kerri: In that instance, embrace one of my favorite phrases: “I don’t know”. No one knows everything, even subject matter experts. While it might feel uncomfortable acknowledging that you don’t have an answer, this simple act of honesty will keep you from misspeaking in an effort to say SOMETHING.
What you CAN do is offer to find the answer for the interested party, and let them know asap. Take their email post-presentation and send them a detailed response as soon as you have the information they’re looking for.
Another option is to toss the question to another subject matter expert that may be in the room. Perhaps there’s a co-worker that specializes in the area of a particular question that can help you out. However, that person also has the option to use the magic phrase: “I don’t know.” Then you always have option #1 as a backup.
It’s ok not to know something. It truly is. Being able to admit you don’t have an answer can give you the opportunity to get the best answer possible to someone who has a question, rather than cobbling something together that can undermine your credibility.