From the get-go, I’m going to say Questions and Answers (Q&A) sessions shouldn’t be in every presentation you give. Sometimes it just doesn’t make sense to include a Q&A. However, when the time’s right and the context calls for it, including a Q&A session in your presentation is a fantastic way to engage your audience and gauge how engaged your audience actually is.
Sadly though, not many presenters reap the rewards that Q&A’s can offer. Let me tell you why.
Be honest right now. Of all the presentations you’ve given, how many have had Q&A’s? Do you have a number in your head? Great. Now, how many of those Q&A’s did you not plan for because you thought it was a waste of time, and instead, decided to wing it thinking everything was going to be okay?
Do you see where I’m going with this?
Lucky for you, I have three fool-proof tips that you can use to make sure you can prep for your Q&A sessions. Unlucky for you, it involves a bit more work on your part. But hey, you’re a go-getter, so why not?
The first step of the plan is to have a plan in place. You’re going to need to think about where a Q&A would fit in your presentation. Are you the type of person to hold all questions at the end? Great. Just be sure to announce that at the beginning of your presentation, so you don’t have to pull your hair out when people interrupt you in the middle of your thing.
Another approach is to pause for questions after covering a specific topic. This way, you’re making sure your audience gets it. Plus, you’re engaging the people in the room a lot more.
One thing to note though. Unless the people (or person) you’re presenting your content to is super important (like a CEO, or a high profile client), do not let them (or him, or her) interrupt your presentation with a question. That sort of crap can throw you off, and sets up a dangerous precedent where you can be interrupted no matter what the scenario.
Speaking of presenting to important people, be sure to check out this post here to get a better idea of how to present to them effectively.
When you’ve prepared your slides and mastered your content, it’s time for you to review everything again and to look for questions that could be asked by the members of your audience. List all the possible questions, write them down, and then answer each one. Once you’ve answered all of them, be sure to rehearse the questions and answers you’ve just noted.
A good technique to anticipate questions is to put yourself in your audience’s seat and look at yourself presenting. If you were a member of your audience, how would you perceive the content? Do you need to ask a technical question to understand? Do you need to ask a specific question because the material is a little too high-level? Do you agree with what’s being said? Do you have an emotional response that needs to be clarified by asking a question?
I can’t stress how important this tip is. On one level, you’ll be better informed and can efficiently answer the questions that come your way, and thus, allow your audience to gain a deeper level of understanding. On another (and unfortunate) level, you’ll be prepared for the assholes in the room. Yes, there are indeed going to be members of your audience that will ask a question with the intent of purposely throwing you off. Maybe they’re jealous of you, perhaps they want to seem smart, maybe they’re bored, or maybe they just don’t like you. Whatever it is, don’t let them have the upper hand.
There will be a time when someone is going to throw you a curveball of a question that you will have no answer to. Even the best presenters face this, so it’s nothing to be ashamed of.
Let me be clear: The best thing to do here is to NOT answer the question. This doesn’t mean you go silent and make your audience cringe for a few minutes. Instead, say something along these lines:
“I have to confess; I do not know how to properly answer your question right now. But please do give me your contact information and I will be happy to communicate the answer to your question once I have researched it.”
Be sure to do what you said you’d do and follow up with the correct answer!
Including Q&A’s into your presentation isn’t a walk in the park. So if you’ve established you need one, then you’re going to have to prepare for it. You know; the “hard way.”
Enlighten me. Have you ever had a Q&A session that went awesomely well or horribly wrong? Let me know by posting your experience in the comments section below.