GUIDELINES FOR HANDLING Q AND A SESSIONS
When your presentation includes a designated Q&A session, your goal is to end it in the manner intended versus ending with an answer to someone’s question which may or may not be beneficial to the audience.
The main point is remember that you are still in speaker/presenter mode, don’t switch off, you are still on the platform and therefore your body language and tone of voice are still being evaluated by the audience.
- Define the parameters of the Q and A when you begin, for example; “We have 10 minutes today and I will be taking 4/5 questions let’s stay focused on the subject covered in this session
- Respond -Simply and directly, do not start on new topics or mini speeches.
- Do respond directly to the question and avoid going off at a tangent.
- Restate the key points of your presentation where applicable.
- What if you don’t get a question Suggest a question for them, “Sometimes I’m asked….” Then answer your own question briefly.
- Always repeat the question:
When someone asks you a question, repeat the question back. Doing so is important for three reasons:
- You ensure that you have correctly understood the question.
- You ensure that everyone in the audience hears the question.
- You give yourself a few extra seconds to formulate your answer.
It’s not uncommon to mishear or misinterpret a question so verifying the question will clear it up.
Also, you may not understand the question, so it’s okay to ask the questioner for clarification.
- Don’t be afraid to say that you don’t know the answer:
A big mistake that many speakers make is that they try to answer questions that they don’t know the answer to. They feel that because they’re supposed to be the expert, that they should know the answer to everything. It’s okay to not have all the answers and telling the audience so will help you bond with them – they’ll appreciate your honesty. Just make sure that you don’t use this approach with every question.
It’s perfectly acceptable to tell an audience member that you don’t have all the facts and would like to get back to them with an accurate answer. It’s also okay to tell someone that you don’t recall all the details. If you fake your way through an answer, or even worse, make something up, you’ll lose credibility with your audience.
- Dealing with difficult questions:
It’s not unusual to get someone that asks a question for a less than honourable reason. There are many reasons for this. These reasons could be:
- The person is trying show off his or her knowledge.
- The person disagrees with you and is trying to prove you wrong.
- The person is in a bad mood and chose to take it out on you.
- The person is interested in only his or her needs and doesn’t care that there are other people also trying to learn.
In each of these cases, your goal is to get the other person to take the conversation off-line. In other words, you need to politely say something like “those are some great questions, is it okay if you and I talk afterwards to discuss them further?” Don’t be rude or unprofessional (even if the other person is), but be firm. Here are some different ways you can approach it:
- “You’ve asked a lot of great questions. Would you mind if you and I chat when I’m done so others in the audience can ask some questions?”
- “I’d like to think about that a bit more before I answer it. Could you and I talk afterwards?”
- “I appreciate your position on the issue. Perhaps you and I could discuss it in more detail later on.”
- “You seem like you know a lot about this subject. Perhaps you and I can compare notes after my talk is over.”
Your goal is to get the person to stop asking questions without doing anything that might upset or offend others in the audience.
Try to keep your answers short. If you don’t understand the question, admit it, saying, “I’m sorry. I don’t understand the question.” Do not say, “Your question is unclear.” Rephrase questions that are unclear and rambling.
Try to move around the audience when accepting questions so that the total audience is involved.
There are a lot of things to keep in mind when handing a Q&A session during a speech. Remember that preparing well will give you confidence. Repeat the question back so that you ensure you get it right and the audience hears it. Don’t be afraid to tell someone that you need to get back to them with an answer and make sure that you treat all questioners with respect, even if they don’t reciprocate.
Make certain that you present the last word on the subject. At the end of the session, make sure to have an appropriate closing: a summary, request for action, request for commitment, or restatement of the group’s agreement. Remember, the first and the last comments made receive the audience’s highest level of attention.
Good Q and A sessions can help you build rapport with an audience, so don’t overlook this important part of a speech.