Mastering Q&A

January 6, 2017.

Mastering Q&A
From World Class Speaking in Action, Chapter 30 by Dell Self

Although the speaking part of making presentations is rightly emphasised, it’s not always realised how important it is to master Q&A to make the right impression.  So, we will take a look at how to get the most out of your Q&A.

There are five key points to consider in order to ensure an effective Q&A:

LOCATION. Avoid putting the Q&A at the wrong point (or ‘location’) in your presentation.  Often Q&A is left to the end, but this is usually a mistake.  If not properly managed, a Q&A can degenerate into a mixture of questions, some relevant, some partly relevant and some irrelevant.

At the same time people are starting to switch off, talking amongst themselves, checking mails, getting ready to leave and so on.  People tend to remember the first thing about your presentation – first impressions matter – and the last thing.

So if your Q&A is at the end, then people tend to remember the Q&A and the message of your presentation gets devalued, or even lost—you don’t want people remembering the ‘wrong thing’.

TIMING. If you put the Q&A session after the main part of your presentation and before your closing speech, that will increase the value of the Q&A.  Your audience’s attention will not start to wander and they will remember your carefully crafted closing speech, which will reinforce your message.

PREPARATION. When preparing your speech think about how you want to handle the Q&A.  If you let people ask questions throughout your presentation, that risks slowing it down and diluting the message.

It is probably better to tell the audience up front that there will be a Q&A later and they should write down any questions that crop up and you will answer them in the Q&A.  This will help your audience focus on relevant questions and also help avoid your presentation being broken up by people cutting in with questions.

PARAMETERS. At the start of the Q&A tell your audience how many questions you will take and for how long – e.g. five questions, for ten minutes – and also inform your audience that you will give your closing wrap-up after the Q&A.  That way, your audience will be motivated both to stick to relevant questions and stay focused, rather than start to pack up and leave.

HANDLING. If the audience are quiet, then be proactive and tell them you will “take questions now”.  When taking questions, don’t focus on only one section of the audience, but look around the whole audience.

Encourage questioners by using positive body language, that shows your interest, like smiling, maintaining eye contact for the duration of the question and thanking them for the question.  Keep your answers relevant and then ask the questioner if they are satisfied with your answer.

A good Q&A can enhance your presentation and leave your audience fired up by your message.

World Class Speaking in Action, Craig Valentine & Mitch Meyerson, Morgan James Publishing, 2014.

This article first appeared in the EMC Quest newsletter series.

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