Besides fearing that the audience already knows what you’re going to present about and the risks of assuming you know what the audience knows, speakers face another worry: What happens when you don’t know the answer to a question?
Saying “I don’t know” shouldn’t be a stumbling block. Just because someone can formulate a question doesn’t mean there’s a ready answer.
Saying “I don’t know” doesn’t mean you’re stupid or ignorant about your subject matter. It could even boost your credibility.
Even so, many speakers fear an audience member will pose a question for which they won’t have an answer. Saying “I don’t know” feels like a conversation stopper.
You might feel embarrassed or tempted to fake an answer, but don’t. It’s better to be honest and know a few ways to say “I don’t know” with grace, style and a little bit of humor (when appropriate).
Try some of these back-pocket phrases during your next “I don’t know” moment: