Do you love the Q & A that follows your presentation, or hate it? (To achieve maximum credibility and trust as a speaker, download my free eBook, "12 Easy Ways to Achieve Presence and Charisma.") If you're like most speakers, you probably fall into one of two categories:
- I can't wait to get to the Q & A because I hear from my audience and we can at last have a true discussion.
- I hate Q & A because I never know what people are going to ask and I'm afraid I won't know the answers
Whichever of these camps you fall into, you should be aware that question-and-answer sessions provide an excellent forum for persuasion. Just like you, your audience realizes that you haven't been able to prepare for questions you couldn't know were coming. They know that it's much easier to prepare and practice a presentation than it is to field tough challenges suddenly coming your way in real time. Naturally, a person doing that well comes across as more persuasive.
Of course, you can and should anticipate questions and objections you reasonably believe you'll be faced with. But no one can foresee every question that might arise; and however well you prepare, someone in your audience will throw you a challenge you couldn't have seen coming. Learn the 5 essential speaking techniques of leadership to help you in situations when you have to come across as a powerful speaker.
Why You Need to Shine in Q & A
So there's no doubt about it: you're at maximum exposure during the question-and-answer session. But your audience's awareness of that fact actually works in your favor. In fact, it can work tremendously in your favor.
Here's why: anyone can give a reasonably successful presentation if they've prepared well and practiced sufficiently. You can even give a good presentation if someone else prepared well and you've practiced sufficiently.
Audiences understand, however, that during the question-and-answer dynamic, your knowledge and communication skills are fully and nakedly on display. You can't rely on your notes, and you don't have the instant (false) credibility provided by your masterly PowerPoint slides. You must respond from your own well of knowledge and experience, create a concise answer that provides appropriate information to the questioner, demonstrate poise and good will, and do so quickly with all eyes upon you.
No wonder Q & A is, as I call it, a "forgotten avenue of audience persuasion!" Do all of the above with style and skill, and you'll go a long way toward strongly bolstering your authority and credibility with your listeners. Here are 3 additional ways to develop more powerful presentation skills.
Why You Should Look Forward to Q & A
If you're in the "I'd still rather deliver a presentation than answer questions about it" camp, you may not believe that you should actually look forward to Q & A. Yet you should, at least if you want to positively influence audiences.
The truth is that Q & A is critically important to effective business presentations. Question-and-answer sessions give you the chance to enrich and deepen listeners’ experience of your talk. That in itself is refreshing for both you and your audience. Yet there are at least four additional reasons why you should love Q & A, or at the very least look forward to it:
Reason # 1: Your presentation may have confused some audience members or left them unconvinced. (Or worse, left them unimpressed with you as a speaker.)
In such cases, Q & A is your golden opportunity to either continue to inform and convince—or to do so at last as you conclude your presentation. Remember that speakers who handle themselves with style and assurance in the rough-and-tumble of Q & A may win over some listeners for the first time! To understand your audience better even before you start speaking, learn how to conduct an audience analysis.
Reason # 2: It’s your chance to clarify your argument, give examples of your solution in action, or overcome opposition.
Most of the time, you’re challenged to cram essential information into a too-brief presentation period. Because Q & A gives the appearance of being audience controlled rather than speaker controlled, it allows you to expand your argument while responding directly to your listeners “off the clock.” The atmosphere created should feel more relaxed, while giving you greater scope to deepen your audience’s understanding. Here are 3 ways to overcome serious resistance—from your boss or anyone in the audience.
Reason #3: Q & A is more conversational and natural than a one-way speech.
All effective public speaking is conversational. Audiences want speakers to communicate with them honestly, openly, and in everyday language. Too often, speeches have the feeling of a monologue, delivered through a one-way dynamic to a polite but anesthetized crowd of onlookers.
The back-and-forth of Q & A should feel more comfortable to you AND your listeners. Best of all, when you’re conversing about a topic you truly care about, all of your best qualities as a speaker will emerge. Do you know about the 7 key speech problems in business? Find them here.
Reason #4: Q & A demands your absolute best.
Let’s face it: A question-and-answer period is a tremendous challenge. You can practice your presentations to your heart’s content—but you can never know what queries and objections may come your way when you invite your listeners to respond.
To excel in Q & A, you have to be 100% focused and able to think nimbly on your feet; sensitive to your audience’s feelings and opinions; and empathetic concerning individual questioners’ points of view. Oh, and you must remain spontaneous, flexible, logical, and good natured.
Accomplish all of this—with a dash of humor tossed in if you can manage it—and you may surpass the effectiveness of your presentation itself.
Key takeaways from this blog:
- Question-and-answer sessions are an excellent forum for persuasion.
- If you can shine in Q & A, your credibility will soar.
- Q & A is a golden opportunity to help confused or unconvinced listeners.
- You can further clarify your argument or give examples of your solution.
- Q & A is more conversational, and so can help you appear at your best.