First Question, Please: 3 Tips for Managing Q & A

q-and-aYou’ve finished your presentation and you nailed it.  You told your story and conveyed your points clearly and persuasively.  There’s a pause.  It is time for the all-important Q & A – a chance to further engage your audience, hear their thoughts on the subject as well as clarify and underscore your message.

To leverage the opportunity, below are responses to some frequently asked questions about Q&A:

How do I prepare?

Part of your presentation preparation should include carefully considering the range of questions you may receive. How? Talk to people; find out what kind of questions or concerns they may have about the topic.  These conversations will prepare you to be able to openly listen to questions or comments your listeners may offer as well as craft an appropriate response.

How do I get started?

First, promote your Q&A before and during your presentation. Say something like, “We are going to have 15 minutes at the end of the presentation for your questions and I welcome your comments as well. Please jot down any thoughts you have so we can talk about them.”

The transition between your speech and Q&A should be smooth . . . as if it is simply a continuation of a conversation. After concluding your remarks, acknowledge any applause gratefully and modestly, pausing briefly before introducing the Q&A.

As you invite the first question or comment, look “expectantly” at your audience . . . it is critical to maintain eye contact with a smile (or pleasant facial expression). If you drop your eyes for even a moment, it is easily interpreted that you really don’t want anyone participate in a Q&A.

Then, be prepared to wait patiently for that first question or comment. Counting to ten usually helps and allows enough time for the shy person to work up the courage to speak up.

How do I conclude?

Quit while you are ahead. It is much better to end with questions unanswered than to “milk the audience dry”.

Anticipate the wind up. Keep an eye on the time, and as either time or interest seems to be running out announce, “We have time for one more question or comment. Whose will it be?”

End smartly! Rather than closing by responding to a final question or comment, be prepared with a summary statement that wraps up your essential message.

Love it, leverage it, learn from it!

Taking a few minutes to receive and respond to listeners’ questions and insights is a win-win!  In addition to responding to their questions, you’ll gain a much deeper understanding of your audience and may learn something new yourself!

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