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I Have Questions
One of the questions we’re asked most often is how to handle, well, questions. And we have answers! A Q&A can seem nervewracking, but generally if you know your subject it can be the most engaging and convincing part of your presentation. Imagine it’s quiz night, but all the questions are on your specialist topic. You win the bar tab, your table is cheering, there’s karaoke later, life is beautiful. This could be you at work too. How? Glad you asked.
Listen very carefully, I shall say this only once
You’ve finished your presentation and someone is leaning forward, their eyes narrowed. Here it comes. The first job you have is to listen. Be attentive, look at the person asking. Repeat the question back, both to ensure everyone heard it and to be sure you have it clear. Don’t anticipate, cutting the questioner off with the answer you think they want. Some questions might seem irrelevant or cover material you’ve already addressed, but your job is to win over your audience, so no eye-rolling. Answer with clarity and respect.
There’s no need to rush – give yourself time to compose your thoughts and decide how to frame your answer. It’s easy to blurt too much information or go off on a ramble if you don’t take a second to plan your response.
In Before the Buzzer
One of the best ways you can prepare for a Q&A is anticipate what your audience might ask. Consider where the knowledge gaps are, or the objections your audience might raise. If there are difficult or unfamiliar concepts, can you explain them briefly and simply? (psst: the answer to that question needs to be ‘yes’)
Avoid this phrase. It’s a little patronising and implies all the other questions were not so great. You can thank them for a question that takes the conversation down an intriguing path, but the best way to respond to an interesting question is to give an engaged and interested answer.
What if you don’t know the answer? Use the 4 Ds:
Tell the truth. Let them know you don’t know the answer. If you try to bluff it could backfire on you – if the audience knows you’re wrong it can destroy your credibility, and of course if you’re deliberately making it up, that’s unethical. Caveats can get you out of danger: “My current understanding of the situation is…” or “I believe it’s giant purple bears mostly, but I’m not certain of that.”
“I don’t have the answer to that right now. Let me come back to you with those details.” Then, and we can’t stress this enough, go back to them with those details in a timely manner
Hand the question to someone with more expertise: “Adrienne, you’re probably best suited to answer that question”. Just be sure Adrienne is ready for it and you’re not throwing her under the bus. Sorry, Adrienne.
If you don’t have the full details (or can’t reveal the full details) you can deploy a tactic used by politicians: “I’m sorry I can’t answer that right now – but what I can say is…” and then use that moment for your own agenda. Sneaky.
At The Pickering Group, we love questions. We can help you love them too. Being comfortable handling questions is a fantastic way to bring your authenticity and credibility to the fore, because they demonstrate your expertise in the subject and create an atmosphere of conversation and dialogue. Also we’re super good at quiz nights. Ask us anything here, join us on social media here and check out our training on Qs, As, and anything in between.
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