Handling Q & A

I’ve seen wonderful speeches spoiled by speakers who end with “Thank  you.  Are there any questions?” A question-and-answer period can be an interesting part of a presentation (sometimes more so than the presentation itself), but if not done correctly, can kill the impact of an inspiring or thought-provoking message.

When speeches finish with Q & A, they tend to end with a whimper instead of a bang.  It’s very easy for the questioning to drag on, to get off track, or turn unfriendly.  I suggest inserting a short Q & A period immediately before the conclusion.  “Before I close, I’d be happy to answer a few questions.” After the questions, you can then take control once again and draw the presentation to a close with your final motivational words.

Here are a few other tricks you can employ when taking questions from an audience:

  • Physically raise your own hand when asking for questions.  This gesture cues the audience that this is way they should offer questions – by raising their hand to be called upon.
  • In case the audience is silent, be prepared to offer the first question yourself.  “Many people have asked me…” That should be enough to jumpstart the questioning.
  • Select questioners from all areas of the audience – near, far, left, right, center.
  • Don’t begin to answer until you’ve heard the entire question.  Not only is it rude to interrupt, but you may also discover they are asking an entirely different question from what you assumed.
  • Always repeat the question over your microphone.  Audiences can rarely hear the question unless a microphone has also been provided for them to use.
  • It never hurts to ask for clarification from the questioner.  This can ensure your understanding of the question, but can also buy you time to compose your answer.  “What you’re saying then is…”, “So your major concern is…”, “If I understand you correctly, you are addressing…”, “Your immediate concern is…”.
  • Keep answers short and positive.  Answer honestly.  If you can, support your answer with evidence, statistics or examples.  If you don’t know the answer, say so, and offer to follow through with a response.
  • When faced with a difficult question, feel free to open it up to the audience.  “How do all of you feel about that?”  “Have any of you had experience with that?” While the audience is sharing their opinions, you can develop your own answer or simply agree with one of their remarks.

Preparation is the key to handling Q & A well.  Think ahead to the questions that could be asked and develop your answers now – before you’re in the spotlight.

© 2017 Jill Bremer All Rights Reserved

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