Today we will be talking about how to ask and answer questions. So we will talk about the Q&A section in a presentation but actually, you will learn strategies for asking and answering questions in any situation. Whether it’s a meeting, presentation, or one on one conversation.
Now Q&A is one of the most important parts of your presentation. While the presentation beginnings and endings are the bookends of your presentation the Q&A is the most lively and interactive part of your presentation. So if you are prepared for your Q&A you will really shine and stand out and become memorable for your audience.
Now it’s a good idea to let your audience know how you will handle Q&A. So will you be taking questions throughout your session or if it’s a more formal presentation, will you have a Q&A section near the end? So you can encourage them to jump in and ask questions any time, or you can tell them that you will be answering questions near the end. That way, your audience will have time to think of great questions to ask.
Remember, your Q&A should be near the end but it’s not the actual end.
This near the end, not at the end approach, is important for 2 reasons. First, if no one has any questions for you, you can smoothly pivot to your wrap-up statement. Second, this approach lets you take control of your final words. The last words the audience hears need to be your voice and your wrap-up message.
For opening Q&A there’s a sentence I like to use. And it’s: "I wonder what comes to mind when you hear this information?“ This is great because you invite people to share what’s on their minds. They will not feel pushed to ask questions. Rather, it will be a conversation. If you want to be clearer, then you can say “What questions come to mind?” If you use an open-ended question here, so saying “What questions come to mind” rather than “Do you have any questions”, people will be more likely to join the conversation.
Now when someone asks a question you want to do a few things in your answer. You want to show that you’re listening. You will do that by paraphrasing the question and ensuring understanding. You also want to acknowledge the person who asked, you want to answer in a concise and brief way, and you want to confirm that you indeed answered the question.
So let’s break it down.
When they ask a question, first, show that you're really listening. Avoid fillers like hmm, so like, you know. Instead, pause for a second and then answer with conviction. You can then paraphrase the question or repeat a part of it to confirm understanding. Or use mirroring. Repeat the last three words of the question. Make sure to demonstrate open and warm positive body language.
So you could say something in the lines of: Let me clarify, you’d like to know… Or Let me confirm, the question is…
Repeating the question is important especially if you're speaking to a larger audience and the person asking the question isn't using a microphone. Then repeating the question lets the rest of your audience hear.
The second thing you want to do is acknowledge the question and the person who asked it. If you know their name, use it. So you can say something like: “Bob, I’m glad you asked.” Or “Bob, thank you for asking, this is interesting”.
Then comes the part when you finally answer the question. Respond to the audience member who asked the question but refer to everyone in the room. Engage the whole group with eye contact.
Keep your responses concise, clear and brief, and focused. Your goal is to provide a short but useful response to questions. The best Q&A section should be lively and interactive. So you want to engage as many people as you can.
If the question has more layers to it, break it down by repeating the pieces and answer one point at a time.
What’s next? Once you answered the question you want to do one more thing. You will confirm that you answered the audience member's question by saying, "Did that answer your question, Bob?"
Now, manage your time so that one question does not dominate the entire Q&A section. It's perfectly fine to say something like, "We have time for one more question."
If the audience is quiet at first, that’s great too. You can either pivot to your closing statement. Or you can say something like: A question that often comes to mind is… and you can open an additional topic. Usually what happens is that someone in the audience will engage in the conversation or come up with a question. If it’s appropriate you can also phrase a question to someone in the room.
If you don’t have the answer that’s great too. It’s a great opportunity to engage the audience and ask for ideas. You could say: "Great question. I never actually thought about that before. I would like to turn this question on to the audience to find out if maybe someone else here knows the answer."
Or you can use the what I do know what I don’t know, I will find out, model. So you will say. “That’s a fantastic question. I know that… I haven’t heard about… but I will find out and get back to you tomorrow via email.”
You can close the Q&A section by thanking everyone for their participation. You can also share how they can reach out to you if they have additional questions.
Then you can continue with your presentation wrap-up message.
Now let’s see how some of these strategies work in action.
I transition smoothly from my closing statement into Q&A and say:
“I wonder what comes to mind when you hear all this information?”
Now let’s say that Bob asks a question: “So the other providers are not so good but cheaper?”
Now I will confirm my understanding by paraphrasing the question.
“Let me clarify Bob, you want to know about the prices and what are the other options?” Let’s say Bob says yes, then you can reply with “I’m glad you asked Bob. First, the other providers are… And second, for the prices, let me share with you this slide… Does that answer your question, Bob? We have time for one more question.”
Jane asks: “Do we have a benchmark analysis?” “Benchmark analysis? That’s a great question, thank you for asking it, Jane. Let me show you the slide…”
“Thank you for your participation, it has been great to see your interest in the topic. If any additional question comes to mind, send me an email and I will be happy to get back to you.”
Now let’s see how it looks from the other side. Questions are a fantastic opportunity for building rapport and building your credibility. Whether you’re at a meeting, conference, or networking event, use these opportunities to become memorable, stand out and build connections.
Start with a positive comment about the person, their company, or something you both have heard at the event.
Then use the opportunity to make a comment about your experience. You can also shortly introduce yourself.
Then ask an open-ended question to let the speaker elaborate. Ask questions that show that you have an understanding of the industry or field.
Make sure to maintain eye contact, open and positive body language, and smile. Avoid fillers like mm, like, so, you know…
When they respond make sure to thank them.
Let me give you an example. Let’s say you’re at a digital marketing conference.
Thank you for mentioning the importance of social media. I’m Jeff and I run a marketing agency. In my experience, mobile devices are becoming more important these days. What are your thoughts on the use of advertising in mobile apps?
So, I opened with a positive comment that referred to something that was mentioned previously. Then I introduced myself. I asked an open-ended question that also shows my expertise.
Focus your question exchange on the other person and use questions to help you build a relationship. You will become memorable, and you will position yourself as an expert and build your brand.
That’s all for today, charming communicators. Going forward you will shine whenever you get the opportunity to ask or respond to questions!
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