At first it’s easier to think what you should not do; put your hand up palm facing them and tell them to shush. Here’s one or two ideas on how you can successfully handle this situation…
The first thing to remember if your client interrupts with a question is hoorah they are listening! They might not necessarily like what they hear but at least they are engaged enough to ask a question and not playing with their iphone.
The next thing to consider is your choice; do you plough on or do you take the question? If you plough on what might be the consequences? Yes the client might learn more but they may also feel disgruntled that their question has not been taken as seriously as they meant it, so there is a risk.
If you take the question and answer it there is a risk that the conversation may go off plan. But remember your objective, which is hopefully something about influencing the client. If this is the case then a conversation with the client about something they want to discuss is exactly what you want.
So first pause, pause the presentation and if you’re in Power Point press the ‘B’ button so that the screen goes blank and you can show that you are taking the question seriously. This also stops other people being distracted by the slide. Now the focus is on this discussion of a point raised by the client.
Listen to the question, then repeat it or summarise it back to them to make sure you have understood correctly. If you have and answer then answer it in a style which draws on your knowledge and supports your influencing objective. You might give various options as answers. (more on answering questions in future posts)
To close this part ask something like ‘does this answer your question for the moment?’, then go back to the presentation.
There may be times when the client question supersedes your presentation, in which case do not go back to it, explain that the presentation objective has been achieved in the discussion and if necessary you can email the slides to the participants.
In summary, if the client interrupts you shut up, listen and get excited!