One of the most frequent ‘fears’ my clients have is when delivering a speech is managing the Q and A section of the presentation, and more specifically answering difficult questions. It is totally understandable that a speaker will feel vulnerable at this stage of a speech or presentation; one of our worst nightmares is that we won’t be able to answer a question – and we’ll look an idiot! Or you won’t be able to answer a question!
One of my clients revealed that before he worked with me, he would try to anticipate the questions people would ask; and as a result, CRAM his presentations with facts, but he failed to make the presentations engaging for his audiences due to the over complicated content.
Another client admitted that he would deliberately overrun on his presentation to avoid the Q and A section of the event! Naughty!!!
Sadly, occasionally there are members of the audience who are trying to score a point, or throw an insult at the speaker. Her is how Steve Jobs dealt with this.
I fully appreciate the concerns and apprehension in answering questions: at the worst it can make you feel vulnerable or that you will be unable to answer a key question. But here is the rub: a member of the audience might ask a really useful question, or you might be able to demonstrate how much you know about a topic!
Q and A’s are an important part of a presentation: you are never going to be able to include every fact in a presentation; a member of the audience might be genuinely interested in a point and want to develop it further; or someone might need a further explanation. These are all good things: your audience are interested.
So how can we manage the Q and A section of a speech. Here are 3 top tips:
In order to give yourself time to plan an answer, repeat the question back at the audience. This also ensures members of the audience have heard the question.
If, for any reason, you don’t have information related to the answer, request contact details from the questioner, and offer to send the information when you get back to the office.
There are members of the audience who are reluctant to ask a question; offer to ‘stay behind’ after the speech, so that individuals who wish to ask a question privately have the opportunity to do this. Also sharing your contact details is a good way to do this, for those who might wish to engage in a conversation with you after the event.