Don’t Answer to the Questioner
Of all the do’s and don’ts in handling the Question and Answer sessions in your group speaking, the most important is that you do NOT answer to the questioner. Start your answer to the person asking the question, but then broaden your answer by moving your eye communication to other members of the audience.
This is counter-intuitive, but it really makes sense when you think about your purpose. When you have a group, you want to be relevant to the entire group. If you keep your eyes on the person while you answer the question you will be in a closed feedback loop, and will concentrate on the relevance to the questioner as you look at them. What if it’s a narrow focus, technical question, or a gender oriented question. You will tend to stay in the narrow focus and gender – and thus lose half or more of your audience.
And if you have a hostile questioner, it’s even worse. You will be looking at your hostile questioner, probably get defensive with a frown, trying to make yourself right, and you’re in a NEGATIVE closed feedback loop – and a destructive one at that.
Start your answer to the questioner, then look at others in your audience (with your good 5-second eye communication) and you will tend to broaden your answer to include everyone you are looking at. You will also be able to think more agilely, be more relevant, be shorter in your answer, and not be tempted to ask the questioner, “Is that OK? Did I answer your question?” (That common habit tends to continue the closed conversation with the one questioner.)
When you answer to the audience you can also be more adept at “Linking Thinking,” which is taking any stimulus (a question for example) and linking it to your positive Point Of View, or benefit, or some example that will further your purpose.
The Q&A session can be very productive, if short and held at the end (but before the close) of your presentations. Here are some more of the Do’s and Don’ts of the Question and Answer session (and remember this is speaking to groups, not the interview Q & A session or one-on-one):
1. Encourage questions by leaning or stepping forward.
2. Listen to and look at the questioner.
3. Use the question to further your POV.
4. Answer to the entire audience.
5. Be brief and cooperative.
6. Include a final closing after your Q & A session.
1. Don’t say “Good question”.
2. Don’t unnecessarily repeat the question.
3. Don’t argue.
4. Don’t posture.
5. Don’t change from your original presentation style.
If you have any questions…