Does anyone have any questions?
Do you ever finish your presentations with a Q&A slide? Does that always go well? Do you get lots of interesting, relevant questions? Questions which add to your presentation?
The Q&A session often closes a presentation. It’s provides an opportunity for the audience to ask all the things they didn’t understand or need more information on. Right? Simple, in theory. But in practice many things can go wrong.
You can get too many questions and struggle to respond to them all or run out of time. There can be confusion on how questions should be posed. People end up frustrated and you get flustered. You don’t finish your presentation with the sort of impact that you want.
So how do you make sure your question and answer session does justice to your message? How do you ensure it does not end up an unfocused mess which undermines the presentation which you spent so long in crafting?
Here are my 3 tips to help you plan and run a Q&A session smoothly so that it adds value to your presentation:
Don’t close with the Q&A session.
I know you’ve always had the “Any Questions?” slide end of your presentations, but this could result in your well-prepared presentation falling flat. You do not want the last thing your audience hears to be your answer to a question that you have absolutely no control over. Instead you need to end with your well-crafted call to action. To do this don’t end with the Q&A. Make sure that you leave yourself a couple of minutes after the Q&A for your conclusion. Run the Q&A near the end of your allotted time. Close the session clearly. Then present your closing. This will ensure that the last thing the audience hears is your key message. The audience will be left with a positive, confident impression of you.
Inform the audience how you will manage the Q&A.
Will you take one question at a time? Will you gather the questions, group them, then answer those of the same theme together? Do people need to raise their hands or to line up at an audience microphone? Can questions be submitted electronically? How much time do you have for questions? Whatever way you run the Q&A session ensure that you inform the audience of how it will unfold. This keeps you in control and avoids confusion and frustration from the audience. Set expectations in advance.
A crucial element of this is to warn the audience when you’re coming to the end of the Q&A session. Announce that you will take just one last question. And stick to it. After you answer the last question, move in to your closing (see tip 1).
Even with a small audience sometimes not everyone hears the question that is posed. This can result in losing a number of audience members – people start chatting between themselves or checking their phones. In the worst case a one-on-one discussion could be held between the presenter and one audience member, alienating the rest of the audience. This could result in the same question being asked repeatedly – a waste of everyone’s time. To prevent this from happening follow my 3 Rs:
- Recognise – Listen carefully to the person who is asking the question – give your full attention (face them and retain eye contact). When they have finished smile and acknowledge them.
- Repeat the question (or paraphrase it) for the wider audience – this opens the answer for the whole room, making sure everyone is keeping up with you and remain engaged. It also gives you a couple of seconds to think about how you will structure your answer.
- Respond – answer the question for the entire audience. You should not look only at the person who asked the question. Your wisdom is for everyone in the room and is probably relevant to many people beyond that one audience member.
By planning in advance using the above 3 tips you will be able to ensure the Q&A adds value to your presentation. You will keep the audience interested and strengthen your message and credibility.
Next week I’ll also be posting another few tips (video) which will help you avoid some of the common pitfalls of Q&As (think tricky questions, no questions and hijacked sessions).