Get out of your next Q&A unscathed.
So, you've given a presentation, and now it's time for question and answer. Q&A sessions can get out of hand and lose their effectiveness unless you maintain strict control of them. Here's what you can do behaviorally and with your content for a smooth, credibility-building Q&A.
1. Set a tone and encourage questions by leaning or stepping forward and raising your own hand to model behavior.
Have listeners raise their hands if they have a question – just like we all learned in school. This way, you can choose to answer questions as they arise – if there aren’t too many – or you can ask that the questions be saved for a specific time in the agenda.
Making sure to step forward helps you avoid the unintentional slow backwards step that can be perceived as a retreat. (You’d be surprised how often this happens.)
2. Listen to and look at the questioner, but also answer to the entire audience.
Give your questioner eye communication while she’s asking the question, and start answering the question directly to her so she’s acknowledged. But do not get stuck on her the entire time. Make sure to give eye communication to the rest of the audience, as well. When we get stuck on speaking only to the questioner, the rest of the audience can start to tune out because they’re not being engaged by the speaker.
The biggest tip in hostile Q&A situations: Do not return to the original questioner at the end with your eyes. When you end your answer on the questioner, you’re giving her permission to follow up, and if this person is hostile, you’ve opened yourself up to a potentially negative situation. Ending your question and eye communication on someone else in the room also gives others the opportunity to ask questions.
3. Use the question to further your Point of View.
When it makes sense, use your answer to hammer home your overall Point of View. For example, if you were giving a presentation on the importance of using your vacation days and someone asks your favorite vacation destination, don’t simply answer, “Hawaii.” Answer something like, “I prefer Hawaii, but where you go or what you do on your vacation time isn’t necessarily important. It’s critical you use your time away from work to rebalance and reboot so you can be more effective.”
4. Be brief and cooperative.
Audience members walk in and out of presentations to take calls, or answer emails. If someone asks you to repeat the second half of your talk during the Q&A, simply say you’d be happy to fill them in on any major content he missed while out of the room. Your other audience members will sigh with relief for not having to hear it all repeated.
5. Include a final closing after your Q&A session.
Q&A sessions can go all over the place. All of a sudden you’re out of time, and the audience is still engaged in a tangential question that may or may not have anything to do with your main Point of View. To leave the audience with your most important idea, take a few seconds at the end of Q&A to thank the audience and repeat your ending Point of View, the action step they need to take, and the benefit to them for taking this action.
For example, “Remember, it’s essential that you take your vacation days this year. By the end of the week, take a look at your calendar and set some potential vacation time with your manager. You’ll be more rested, effective, and focused when you return to the job.”
Try these out after your next presentation and report back. What worked for you? Have you tried any of these tips before, or have some of your own to share?
Read on for the Q&A Don'ts - what not to do during a Q&A after your presentation.