You’ve just wrapped up your presentation, and you’re confident that you’ve conveyed your points clearly and persuasively. Now, it’s time for the Q&A.
If you’re like many speakers, you view Q&As in one of two ways: you dread them, worried about being caught off guard, or you breeze through them, thinking that the “real work” is behind you. Wrong and wrong, and here’s why Q&A is often the most valuable part of any presentation — it invites dialogue, provides feedback, and, when properly handled, allows you to conclude on an energetic and powerful note.
Q&A is definitely not something to fear; it’s an opportunity to interact with your audience, and it can teach you a lot. But don’t make the mistake of treating Q&A lightly. To take full advantage of its power, consider the following:
Why should I welcome Q&A whenever possible?
Your audience wants to be involved, to connect with you and your knowledge, and the Q&A is their chance to do so. Q&A allows you to respond to the specific interests and concerns of your audience. It also provides immediate feedback on how your message was received, letting you clarify or redirect on the spot.
Finally, Q&A offers valuable insight to help you refine future presentations. If certain topics come up repeatedly, plan to cover them more extensively next time.
How do I encourage it?
Advertise your Q&A before and during your presentation. Say something like, “I’d like to thank our hosts for providing time at the end of the presentation for questions and answers, and I welcome your comments as well. Please jot down any thoughts so we can be sure to address them.”
If an agenda is distributed, make sure it mentions the Q&A so participants can give some thought to their questions in advance.
How do I facilitate it?
“Robust” is how participants should describe your Q&A if asked. To respond to as many questions or comments as possible, keep up the momentum by
- Recognizing questioners briskly to keep things moving
- Setting up and using a “batting order” to establish who goes first, second, etc.
- Encouraging comments as well as questions
- Briefly repeating the question before answering
- Retaining control and keeping an eye on the time
- Concluding with a short summary to end the session smoothly
How do I follow-up my Q&A?
Stick around. Many times an informal Q&A will develop after the formal presentation is concluded, so budget your time accordingly. Ideally, no attendee should leave with his or her question unanswered.
If you promise someone additional information, be sure you have the necessary contact information and follow up as promptly as possible.
Love it, leverage it, learn from it
Hopefully, you’ve viewing Q&A in a whole new light by now. Far from a breeze or a chore, it’s a way to engage audiences in a highly effective and rewarding way. Remember: The more questions asked, the more listeners are engaged in what you have to say. So if your next Q&A is a lively one, take it as a compliment!