How you handle a question-and-answer session during or after a presentation can boost your credibility and reinforce your message—or not. We have techniques to help.
Listen to Master Facilitator Sarah Palmer talk about two common mistakes presenters make when trying to address questions:
Our best tips for making the Q&A productive:
Be prepared. If you’ve mastered your data and message, and you take the time to anticipate questions (and your answers) ahead of time, you’ll be better prepared to ace a Q&A session. Practice not only your presentation, but your answers to questions.
Be respectful. Your attitude and comportment during a Q&A session often says as much as your actual answers to questions. People can feel whether you genuinely care that they understand your message and/or data. So, listen deeply to questions—and sometimes, the question behind the question—make eye contact, and know that most people who bother to ask a question sincerely want more information or clarification.
Acknowledge, then confirm you answered the question. Another way to show respect and build trust is to acknowledge that you heard and understand the question. Simply paraphrasing the question accurately can accomplish that, but you can take it one step further by showing that you understand the larger concern or context. For example, if you’re proposing a new department initiative and someone asks, “How can we take on a major program when we’re already stretched, resource-wise?”, your response could be, “I understand your concern about workload, especially since the company recently cut staff and budgets.” After you answer the question, take a moment to ask, “Have I addressed your concern, and do you see how this can work?”
Give brief, incisive answers. No matter how complex or technical your presentation, the Q&A session is not typically the place to deliver a master’s thesis answer. Give direct, concise answers, and if needed, offer to discuss the details later, in another setting.
Be honest and open. People can sense if you’re fudging or trying to bluff your way through an answer. Just be truthful, and if you don’t know the answer, say so, and offer to get back to them. Also, don’t hesitate to pause if you need a moment to think about a question.
Don’t let awkward or hostile questions throw you off. No matter how irrelevant or hostile the question is, don’t take it personally, and don’t get defensive. If you can find something of value and relevance to your main message in the question, briefly make the connection and move on. If the questioner continues to press or argue, say, “Let’s talk about this further after the meeting.”
Master these Q&A session techniques and you’ll never have to dread them again.
On the journey with you,
CEO and Chief Learning Officer