Question and answer sessions can be the toughest part of any speech or keynote. Improve your public speaking skills by knowing what to do (and what not to do) in any question and answer session.
1. Treat your answer like a mini-speech:Keep your manner of presenting consistent with the rest of your speech. When you answer the audience member, direct your answer towards the whole crowd–make eye contact with them and move around the stage just like you would during your speech.
2. Call on many parts of the room:When looking for hands, look around the entire crowd. Many speakers get tunnel vision and only focus on one area of the audience. Make a conscious effort to look to the back, left, right, and center.
3. Admit when you don’t know: Bluffing is easy to detect. A simple response such as, “I don’t know, let me research that for you,” works every time.
4. Actually follow up: Create a “follow-up” sheet that tracks an audience member’s info that he or she can give you after you’re done.
5. Leave enough time: Plan to end with enough time for Question and Answer. If you run out of time for questions, have audience members write down their questions and then respond over email.
6. Repeat the question to make sure you heard it correctly and the audience did, too. The acoustics in a room can be weird and if you misheard the question then the answer will serve no one.
7. Ask the person if your answer was successful. If not, add on or follow up afterwards
8. Close out after your Q and A: You get the last word regardless of what anyone else says. Have a closing for your speech as the last part of the Q&A.
9. Take questions throughout your speech: If your talk will go for more than 20 minutes, consider having stopping points throughout your talk for Q and A sections or allowing audience members to ask questions as they arise.
10. Treat it as a conversation: View the Q and A session as an opportunity to talk with your audience members–they will ask you questions and you can ask them questions, too.
1. Don’t let others control the session: A simple, “next question” is easy enough to move things along.
2. Talk for too long on any answer or the session: Keep your answers to only a few sentences. If you feel like you will go on for too long, ask to continue the conversation afterwards with the person.
3. Get sidetracked: Similar to #2, beware of going off on tangents
4. Thank or say “great question”: If you say this for every question, every question is great. If you don’t say it for one question, then that’s the one that isn’t great.
5. Laugh at a question or comment: Someone may be asking you a question where he or she truly wants to know the answer even if the audience thinks it’s a silly or very basic question. Keep it professional.
6. Make it personal: Most likely a lively debate rather than someone attacking you. If hostile, just say that it’s better for a personal conversation than in front of everyone.
7. Jump in mid-question: You may think you know what the question will be but don’t cut off the audience member–listen to the whole question
8. Answer every single question or part: You choose which parts you want to answer
9. Use up all of the time because it’s there: If you end 10 minutes early then it’s OK to end 10m early
10. Refuse to take questions. It’s expected that you will take questions unless the format is one where there will be no time (e.g. a room is rented for an event). Expect Q&A to be expected by your audience.
Need help with your next speech or want to improve your public speaking skills?