A skilled speaker has a strategy for the question and answer segment. Unfortunately, for many presenters, the Q&A remains just an afterthought – an opportunity to breathe and get over the terror of delivering a trouble-free presentation. The better way to approach the Q&A is to consider it as a seamless part of the presentation.
So how can you be strategic about the part of the presentation that’s up for grabs? First, always listen to the entire question. Don’t interrupt and begin answering before the questioner finishes. Approach every question as an opportunity. Even questions that have a negative agenda are an opportunity for you to further explain your point of view and sell your ideas.
Second, planning and practice are essential. If you think you can wing it, you are mistaken. Skilled speakers enthusiastically embrace preparation. That’s not to suggest you should get bogged down with details. True preparation focused on the story you want to tell, not on the questions that could be asked.
That leads us to the third point: look for opportunities in every question to weave your story into your responses – whether you answer simply or more deeply or expand to adjacent arguments. As a result of effective preparation, the speaker will be able to deftly return to the key points they want the audience to understand and remember, regardless of the question that was asked.
And finally, relate your points in memorable stories, observations and anecdotes. To make the story memorable, make sure you aren’t simply dumping a bunch of meaningless data on the audience. The best way to package information is in personal stories that are real and meaningful.
The key is to take advantage of the heightened attention during the Q&A to amplify the points you want to make. It is a great opportunity to drill down and to extend the case you’re making. So the bottom line is to develop a brief, linear story line for the presentation itself, then strategize about how to use the Q&A as a seamless part of the presentation.