Chapter 7

Presentation Q&A Tips

For some presentations, the question and answer session is the most significant segment. It gives audience members an opportunity to have the speaker address issues of particular concern to them. It also shows listeners how well the speaker can formulate a spontaneous response.

7.1

Preparation

Preparation is crucial to a successful Q&A session. In most cases, you will give your best answer to a question when you have anticipated the question and given considerable thought to your response.

In fact, the more prepared you are, the more spontaneous you can be. When you really know your subject and have thought through the questions people may ask you about it, you can respond more quickly and confidently.

7.2

Listening and Answering

When someone asks a question, it is critical to listen carefully to what is being asked so that you can respond specifically. Repeating generalities you have already covered in your talk is not likely to engage your listeners.

Have you ever heard a politician respond to a question without ever actually addressing what was asked? Unfortunately, such responses are not confined to politics. One sure way to frustrate an audience is to respond to their questions without answering them.

Before you give an answer, make sure all of your listeners have heard the question; repeat the question if necessary.

If you need clarification of a question, don’t hesitate to ask for it. If you don’t know the answer, simply say so, and perhaps offer to e-mail or call the questioner later with additional information.

Admitting that you don’t know the answer to a question is far better than guessing. In fact, the audience will appreciate your candor and may actually be more inclined to trust the answers you do give them.

Many speakers give inappropriately long answers to questions, perhaps out of a well-intentioned but misguided desire to please the questioners. When giving an answer, however, you should consider not only the questioner but also the rest of the audience. Do they share the questioner’s interest and level of expertise? If not, you may want to adapt your response to better satisfy the needs of all of your listeners. In any case, concise answers are usually the best answers.

Most of the elements of effective delivery described earlier in this book apply to the Q&A portion of a talk. Do not view the Q&A session as an afterthought, but rather as an integral part of your overall presentation. Throughout the Q&A session, you continue to convey to your listeners many verbal and non-verbal cues about yourself and your message.