Public speakers and business presenters know that adding a Q&A to their talk can be a great way to get instant feedback from their audience, engage an audience in a conversation, and ensure everything was covered that the audience wanted to hear. But, if managed poorly, a Q&A can look sloppy, get out of hand and torpedo an otherwise great presentation.
So, here are seven tips to ensure your next Q&A is handled well and goes smoothly:
1) The Q&A does not come last. The Q&A portion of your talk should come just before your conclusion. This allows your presentation to end on a high note rather than fizzle out with “I guess there are no more questions.” Finish answering your last question and then launch into a short conclusion that ends with a bang.
2) Invite Questions. Set up your Q&A in a welcoming tone by saying “What questions do you have?” rather than “Does anyone have any questions?” This will position you as open-minded and elicit a better audience response.
3) Come With Your Own Questions. Come prepared with a couple of questions of your own to get the ball rolling. “No one has a question? Well, here’s a question I get asked all the time …” or, “I have a question for you. You are all experts in this field, [insert question]?” Or, you might ask “Were there any parts of my presentation today that surprised you or that you found particularly interesting?”
4) You Control the Time. Don’t allow a Q&A to make your presentation run over your allotted tine. When the time is about up say “We have time for one last question” and then do not take anymore questions. You don’t have to answer every question. If you know you have more questions than you have time for, just say “I’ll be right over here after the presentation and I’ll be happy to answer any additional questions then.”
5) Repeat the Questions. Listen carefully to each question and then repeat it or paraphrase it. The ensures that everyone in the room hears all the questions and it gives you a moment to gather your thoughts before answering the question.
6) You Don’t Have to Know All the Answers. You should prepare for the questions that are most likely to be asked but you may encounter a question that you’re not ready for. Be honest if you don’t know an answer. You can promise to get back to the questioner with an answer or, if it’s appropriate for your audience, you can toss the question to the group by saying “We have a lot of expertise in this room — I’m curious how you would handle this question?” and then quickly become a facilitator. Audiences often enjoy interacting with another and, besides, no one likes a know-it-all speaker.
7) Take Inappropriate Questions Off-Line. If a questioner gets too technical or wildly off-topic, ask them to meet with you later to discuss. Just say, “You are very knowledgeable in this area. I don’t want to lose everyone else here, so let’s take that topic off-line.”
If handled well, a Q&A can be an important public speaking tool and a great component of a business presentation. Following these tips, will help you to deliver a polished and professional presentation from beginning to end.