Never fear. Q&A can be managed. And it’s easier than you think.
Many audiences will want and appreciate the opportunity to ask questions. If you believe your audience is likely to do so,decide upfront whether you want to take these questions as you go along. If you do, tell them that they are welcome to raise their hands and pose their question. If you’d rather they wait until the end, instruct them to hold their questions, explaining that you will take them later, and that you might cover the information anyway.
1. Repeat questions. When answering one person’s question, be sure to include the entire audience. Repeat the question posed to you so that everyone hears it clearly, and then answer it.
This simple technique enhances the audience’s pleasure in listening to you, and shows that you are a good ‘host’.
Slot in Q&A at the three-quarter mark. Q&A is often a speaker’s worst fear. This is especially true for public figures, where questions are often heated, even hostile.
A poorly handled Q&A session can undermine a good presentation. Imagine giving a sterling talk, only to be torn apart by the media and audience members at the end. You would be forced to close on a back-peddling note, which is something no good presenter wants.
One solution is not to end with Q&A. Slot it in at the three-quarter mark in your presentation, like this:
- Cover the body of your talk
- Then begin taking questions from the audience
- Answer the questions to the best of your ability, and answer as many questions time allows for
- Then wrap up the Q&A session, and deliver your prepared conclusion.
This technique frees you up to bring your speech to the strong conclusion you had planned, no matter what happens during Q&A.
2. If you don’t know an answer, say so. When faced with a question to which you don’t know the answer, simply admit as much: “Good question. I don’t have that information at hand. Could you give me a business card afterwards, and let me get back to you? Thank you. Next question please?”
Alternatively, open the question up for discussion, and allow your audience to co-create the right answer, for example:“Good question. Let’s ask this group what approaches you’ve used, and which have worked.”
Q&A needn’t be the nightmare you imagine it to be. The key is to manage it on your own terms, and remain in control of the process.