How can the Q&A session be a curse? To put it briefly – it can kill your presentation.
There are two primary ways you can get cursed by the Q&A session: ending your presentation with it and not managing it properly. Let’s see what that’s about and what “lucky charms” will help keep you safe.
First off –
Ending your presentation with a Q&A session
Stay away from this as much as you’d stay away from an abandoned building in the middle of nowhere. Click To Tweet
The most dangerous thing you could do with your presentation is to end it with a Q&A.
The threat lies in the fact that you lose most of the control you had during your speech and, therefore, you can’t predict how it’s going to end.
Let’s envision a few horror scenarios:
- Confrontation: you might have hostile audience members whose questions you will end up facing either defensively or aggressively;
- Derailing: you might come across a geometric progression of questions that are unrelated to your presentation’s topic, which you might not have the answer to and will shift the focus away from the message you wanted to convey;
- Silence: you ask questions, you wait an excruciating few seconds, you start to doubt the success of your presentation, you close with an awkward “Ok, I guess that’s it then… Thank you for your time.”, then you leave feeling, and maybe even looking, like a failure.
Is that what you want your audience to remember from your presentation?
Hate to break this to you, but your audience will most likely remember the beginning and ending of your presentation more than that big chunk of information in the middle. It’s a little something called the Serial position effect; look it up.
So, considering this, it’d be wise to avoid situations that you can’t (fully) control at the end of your presentation. Additionally, closing with the Q&A is as clichéd as the little girl with hair all over her scary face in the movies you probably don’t want to remember. In both cases, stay away!
Instead, solicit questions right before your grand finale. Or, if it fits better with your style and presentation, you can take questions throughout the span of your speech, but this can easily get a little chaotic.
What you should do is announce that there will be a Q&A session near the end of your presentation, tell the audience how long it will last and/or the number of questions you will be answering.
This gives you more control over the session and the closing, prompts the audience to think of what they want to ask beforehand and puts them at ease about being able to ask questions and about how you will be managing their time.
One very important advantage of having the Q&A session before your conclusion is the change in rhythm that will get your audience to be more attentive for your closing. This is very good because the closing is where you should reinforce your CTA or message.
And, while we’re on that subject, there are plenty of better alternatives than the Q&A to end your presentation with. To name a few:
- A surprising fact
- A provocative, rhetorical question
- A brief and memorable statement
- A quote or a reference
- A (relatable) story
- An uplifting takeaway
- A reference back to your opening
- A strong CTA
- A reiterated main message
Take your pick.
Not managing your Q&A session properly
Besides losing some of the control during this session, you also end up changing your role in the (presentation) room. You are now expected to deliver information like you have been doing throughout the presentation, as well as manage discussion and interaction.
Depending on the crowd, this could prove a very difficult task and, in some cases, go very badly (refer back to the horror scenarios mentioned above).
So here are a few “lucky charms” to help keep you safe and properly manage your Q&A session:
Before the Q&A
- Do your best to prepare for whatever questions they might throw at you.
- Cover (most) FAQs in your presentation material in order to keep the Q&A session brief.
- Announce a time limit or a number of questions you will be taking in advance.
At the end of your Q&A
- Announce a follow-up option for those who want to talk to you more (especially if you’re bombarded with questions).
- Make a smooth but clear transition back to the presentation material / to your conclusion.
Dealing with difficult questions and questioners
- Don’t engage in hostile rhetoric with your audience and avoid any negative language.
- Admit if you don’t know or are unsure, but say you will get back to them with the answer.
- If you face hostile questions, be polite and say if it’s inappropriate or irrelevant in any way. You can also postpone the answer till after the event or ask the audience for other opinions.
- If your questioner is holding a speech instead of asking a question, you can: find a way to politely interrupt them, ask for their specific question at the end, simplify and reword the question before you answer or thank them for their comment and ask the rest of the audience for questions.
Overcoming the complete silence scenario
- Say “Who has the first question?” instead of “Does anyone have any questions?”
- Besides questions, also ask for opinions and comments.
- If no one says anything, mention a question you’re often asked on the subject, answer it, then invite your audience to ask questions again.
- You can also ask the audience a question and call people out if no one answers.
- Don’t assume the audience’s lack of feedback means the presentation was a failure and never-ever show that through your speech or body language
- Be concise and don’t spend too much time on one question.
- Repeat the questions (especially if most of the audience can’t hear it otherwise).
- Look towards the questioner when you listen, then to the audience when you answer.
- Draw links between the answers you give and the content of your presentation.
Well, those are just a few things you should keep in mind about the Q&A session and how to use it to your advantage instead of allowing it the possibility of ruining your presentation. Now go out there and break a leg!
Oh, one more thing –
To prompt even more audience members to ask questions and state their impressions, to create a tech-savvy and innovation-lover image for yourself and to help you manage your Q&A session even more efficiently, you can also use Niftio’s LIVE feedback feature in whatever creative way you want.