Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Q & A Session

The Question and Answer session after your presentation can be unsettling, especially if you're anxious about the kinds of questions you may be asked.  A good presenter tries to anticipate questions from the audience during the process of preparing for the talk, and in doing so,  do some research to be able to address possible unanticipated questions.  This alone, can you maintain poise and confidence.  A good rule of thumb is, if you KNOW your subject matter and overall presentation with all the specifics behind your statements, you should do fine.  Here are some tips to help you survive a Q & A session:

  • Be sure you understand the question.  You may have to repeat it or reword it. In answering it, be brief clear, concise and to the point.  No more, no less.

  • As you're answering a question, target it towards the overall interests of the majority of the group. If a top decision maker is present, consider answering what that person may also find interesting or relevant.

  • The Question & Answer session is usually after the presentation.  Often, the time allotted to answer questions is limited to, say, 5 or 10 minutes which limits the number of questions that can be addressed.  A good way to control the number of questions is to have people write questions on a piece of paper and pass them up to you the lectern. This  allows you a few moments to not only preview and think about a reply and it also allows you to be more selective in which question to answer and as well how  "in depth" you will go into it.

  • If you don't have an answer or don't know about a certain area within the question, say so!   The audience will respect you for being candid.   Never try to fudge your way with a "white lie" or by side stepping the answer with an impromptu, long winded answer.  People know when they're being fooled. Just admit that "I'm not familiar with that aspect" or "Frankly, I don't know" and promise to find out and to get back with them within a day or two.  By all means do so!  You don't want to lose your credibility. 

  • If a question requires a lot of detail, irrelevant to the topic at hand or may require a personalized reply, offer to meet after the session is over or during the break.  Exchanging contact information is also an option where you both can discuss the question away from the venue with less time limitations or distractions.
The Question and Answer session is a great opportunity to shine.  All it takes is being well prepared with the knowledge of the subject matter in your presentation and knowing the overall presentation itself, backwards and forwards,  so that you can revert to any part of your presentation and expand on any statement within it.  You will appear to answer with authority, poise and confidence.  Think it's easier said than done? Not really.  Remember, YOU are the one being asked to speak, probably because it was felt that you have the knowledge and expertise on the subject matter that the audience wants you to share.  Give yourself that.  It's a privilege and rather humbling to be able to share with others who want to hear about what you know.