0 Not done correctly, the Q&A Session of your presentation can destroy an otherwise excellent talk. Don’t let that happen!
Done correctly, the Q&A Session can add value to your presentation. It’s an opportunity to connect directly with the audience, demonstrate you know your topic in depth, and are skillful at presenting more than your prepared address.
Let’s look at Six Rules for Q&A that will have a positive impact on the audience and make you a better presenter.
1. In your Opening, tell the audience when you’ll be taking questions.
- Usually, the best time to have a Q&A Session is after the body of your talk, and before your Closing.
- There are several reasons why:
- What do you do if, in the first five minutes of your speech, someone asks about something you’ve included in your third to last slide?
- Do you answer it and immediately have to change the structure of your prepared talk, or say, ‘I’ll get to that.’?
- Both are poor options. They interrupt and distract you and the audience, and eat up presentation time.
- How many times have you been to a talk and the presenter says, “Gosh! We have only five minutes left, and I’vel got fifteen more slides to show you. Hold on!”
- The Closing is the Closing (That’s why it’s called the Closing!)
Here’s why: The last thing you say and do will be the first thing the audience will remember.
- Always deliver a Strong Closing with a Call to Action or something significant for them to be thinking about as they leave the venue.
- Taking questions after the Conclusion of your talk has the audience remembering the answer you gave to the last question asked. If you and the questioner get into a disagreement (or worse) about your answer, that is going to be in the mind’s of the audience when they remember your talk. That may not be the take-away you want the audience thinking about as they leave the venue.
- An alternative to this is to take a limited number of questions after each section of your talk, specifically on that section. If you take this approach, hold to it!
“I’m going to talk about them Components, Parts, and Elements of a Presentation.
I’ll name them, explain them, and give examples.
I have a short amount of time allotted for three questions after each section.
I have a longer amount of time set aside after all the sections.
After that, I’ll close my presentation.”
- That verbiage works!
- If I should get interrupted by someone waving their hand before I get to Q&A, I’ll say, “Do me a big favor, please. Write that question down. If I don’t cover it before we get the the Q&A part of my talk, be sure to ask it. Thanks!
- That verbiage works, also!
- That verbiage works, also!
- If your presentation is a Workshop, Q&A is modified and questions taken as you progress through the material.
- If possible, only give your attendees one piece of paper at a time to work on as you present. If they have all the worksheets in front of them, many will look at other papers. This will take their focus away from the work at hand and prove distracting to others.
2. Starting the Q&A.
- Don’t say, “Do you have any questions?”
- Some will think, “I have several questions, but perhaps I missed something in the presentation. No one else is raising their hands and I’m not going to embarrass myself by asking something I should have noted.
- A better start is to ask, “What questions do you have for me?”
- A stronger way to ask is, “When I opened my presentation, I said I had time set aside for questions. This is that time. What questions do you have for me?
- Raise your hand as you make those statements and you’ll get a much better response.
- Prime the pump.
- Request a friend in the audience to ask a question you’ve given them in advance of the event.
- Have a few questions ‘in your hip pocket’ and start the questioning by telling the audience, “I’m going to ask the first question. One of the questions I’m always asked is. . .”
3. Be certain the audience hears and understands each question.
- In some situations, in large rooms and with many people, each questioner may not have a microphone and won’t be heard by everyone.
- Repeat the question, sometimes paraphrasing for better understanding for you, and the audience. Then ask the questioner, “Is that what you’re asking?” or “Did I get that correct?”
4. Answering questions.
- Look the questioner directly in the eye, finish a thought, and move on to make eye contact with a different person. Repeat until the you’ve completed your answer.
- If you answer the question by only looking at the person who asked it, they may ask a follow-up question. Answer that, and you and that individual are in a conversation, excluding everyone else.
5. Don’t say, “Good Question!”
- That phrase is overused. If you say it to the first three questioners, what does the fourth expect to hear?
- It’s better to use expressions like:
- “Thanks for asking.”
- “Let me answer that.” Then, answer it!
- Answer it directly without the lead-in.
6. If you don’t know the answer.
- Never lie or fake the answer.
- Never throw it out to the audience by saying something like, “Does anyone know the answer?”
- You lose control of your presentation and time! The person responding may have an incorrect answer.
- Others may respond with different takes on the question and that further takes control away from you, the speaker.
- It’s better to say, “I’m having a brain cramp on that one. Do me a favor, please: If I don’t give you the answer by the time we conclude, grab me afterwards and we’ll figure it out. Thanks!”
Use the above Six Rules for Q&A in your next presentation, and I Guarantee it will be – NO SWEAT!
About the Author
Fred E. Miller is a speaker, a coach, and the author of the book,
“No Sweat Public Speaking!”
Businesses, Individuals, and Organizations hire him because they want to improve their
Networking, Public Speaking, and Presentation Skills.
They do this because they know:
Speaking Opportunities are Business, Career, and Leadership Opportunities.
They also know:
We perceive really great speakers to be Experts.
Perception is reality, and we like to work with Experts.
He shows them how to:
Develop, Practice, and Deliver ‘Knock Your Socks Off Presentations!’ with –
- Keynote Speaker
- Workshop Facilitator
- Breakout Sessions
- Public Speaking and Presentation Coaching
- Lessening The Fear of Public Speaking with – NO SWEAT!
- Crafting Your Elevator Speech, Floor by Floor with – NO SWEAT!
- Speaking Opportunities are Business, Career, and Leadership Opportunities.
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Fred E. Miller
Nancy Nix-rice says
This was a really great article Fred. I always enjoy your stuff, but this one really resonated. I’ve been speaking professionally for 25 years and think I’m pretty darn good at it, but this pointed up several tips that I’ve slid away from over time and can really use to polish up – thanks!
There is a better way to handle the question session and conclusion of the talk. Have two solid conclusions. Finish the presentation,make questions and conclude again. Even if there are no questions, this works and prevents feelings of embarrassment. Here is an example of this: “Our goal at XYZ is to give our customers the best widgets possible. We do that with superior service, caring employee and a variety of widgets that make our customers’ lives better. Thank you. Do you have any questions for me?” At this point, as often happens, no one raises their hand. Most people just say, “thank you” and meekly walk away. Instead, confidently say something like, “No questions? Then let me wrap up by emphasizing that our goal is to make sure we continue to produce quality widgets for our customers. We will continue to provide the service our customers expect. Employees are a big part of that because they care so much about our customers. And we will continue to produce a variety of widgets that fit different customers needs to help make their lives better. Thank you.” Two conclusions. Double hit of message.
HINT…for a third message hit, ditch the PowerPoint slide that says “questions” on it. Instead, your final slide should have your main message and three key points. It should stay up during question-and-answer sessions. That way, when the audiences eyes and drift away from you and back to the screen, your message is reinforced. The “questions” slide accomplishes nothing.