Now you’re not up on stage or at a lectern presenting, but you’re engaging one-on-one with members. Yikes! A good Q&A session will not only further demonstrate your command of your topic, but it will also let your audience connect with you as a real person.
A bad Q&A session is one where the presenter breaks down, gets into a side-bar discussion or disagreement with an audience member and generally loses the credibility hopefully gained during the presentation. Don’t let this happen to you!
Like speech preparation, you can also prepare for your Q&A. And that leads me to my first handy tip!
Gina’s quick Q&A tips
Prepare. After you have finished your presentation. Write down as many questions about it as you can. You know the topic. What’s the worst thing you can think of? How would you answer that? Have a friend or partner listen to your speech and ask you questions so you can practice your answers in real time.
Listen. During the Q&A session, listen to the speaker’s full question. This gives you time to absorb and plan your answer. It also ensures you don’t miss the point if the speaker takes an abrupt right turn. Look into the person’s eyes. Lightly nod or smile depending on what they’re saying. Be polite! However, if you have a person going on and on – and you’ll know it when you feel it – it is also perfectly polite to gently interrupt and remind them you want to make sure and answer as many questions as possible, so please “make your point.”
Repeat the question. Depending on the size of the room, whether audience members have access to a microphone, and even the speaking pattern of the participant, it’s helpful to repeat back their question. This lets the listener know you understood and also helps others stay engaged. It also buys you a little extra time if you need it.
Use a thought trigger. Sometimes the words don’t want to come out. Try this: Restate the person’s question as the intro to your answer. Or begin with a superlative like, “the most difficult aspect of this is…” or “the most important thing to remember is…” or “that’s a great question…” We call this answer technique “triggering” because it prompts your brain to sort out your already prepared message and extract it.
Say “I Don’t Know.” If you really don’t know the answer, it’s better to say that forthrightly than to B@#)$@ an answer! But, promise to get the information and follow-up later. And do this. Get the person’s contact information if it’s just between you and him. Or make sure the answer is distributed to all the attendees in some fashion, via e-mail or minutes or whatever.
Stay in control. Remain polite and calm above all things. If you get a difficult or hostile question, that appears genuine, try and answer the person but also take a moment to disarm the speaker. Try to find a common bond like, “Since we’re all associates in X company, I know we share a desire to XX.” If the speaker follows up with another question that’s just mean-spirited, reassure them that you’ll happily talk with them directly after the session is over and remind them you need to take as many questions as possible. Show shared concern, and move on!
Some of these tips are similar to those I give clients during my media training programs. Your audience can be a lot like journalists. They’re informed and they may be provocative. Get prepared and you’ll be ready!
If you’d like more than just a quick tip-list, contact me. I can help you really refine your question answering skills.
Copyright 2013 Gina London. All Rights Reserved.