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Welcome back to the AOBE podcast. This week I have a short, but very useful lesson on Q&A sessions for the end of your presentations.

Q&As can be quite stressful, especially if you are not presenting in your native language. To help you better prepare for this stage of your presentation, listen on for my tips and tricks that will help you to confidently prepare.

A Q&A is a powerful and interactive way to help your audience clarify their concerns or doubts. It is also a great way to ensure your presentation message is clear. Make sure you always allow time for Q&A in a business presentation. It is better to have a shorter presentation than a rushed Q&A. If people leave the room with unanswered questions, they won’t adopt your ideas.

Get the most out of your Q&A by:

Planning when you’ll take questions: Establish early on if you want to field questions throughout your talk or save them until the end. If you need to build a thorough case, ask people at the very beginning to hold questions until the end. But if you’re making a series of points, you can take questions after each one, while they’re fresh in people’s minds.

Anticipating questions:

It doesn’t matter how beautiful your presentation delivery is, if you sound confused or uncertain when taking questions, you will have ruined your presentation. Be sure to brainstorm any questions the audience might raise, from the mundane to the hostile.

Preparing some answers ahead of time will ensure you are not caught off guard when everyone is looking at you. Rehearse your answers but still be prepared for some random unexpected questions. Some questioners may feel a need to publicly challenge your idea. If this happens, keep your cool. Obviously here it is important to know your material or have some supporting facts or figures in the appendix. 

Listening empathetically for subtext:

Get to the point and try and answer people’s questions as best you can. However, you also need to be tuned in to any underlying issues that people may not want to express directly to the group.

There is often politics at play and sometimes people want to get an answer to something that is bothering them, yet they may feel embarrassed or defensive about openly asking a direct question. Try and listen carefully, think on your feet and try and be sensitive to these unspoken issues. 

Admitting when you don’t know something:

Never, ever fake an answer. It may work once, but 9 times out 10 it will just make you look bad. People will see straight through you. If you don’t know the answer to a question, say that, and offer to do some research after the presentation and get back to the group.

Keeping a tight rein on large or tough crowds:

If you’re presenting to a large group, ask a Q&A moderator to graciously take the microphone back after each question is asked. That way, one aggressive question won’t turn into a barrage.

Or, if you don’t have a moderator, let the audience know up front that you’re answering one question per person so more folks will have a chance to participate. Another tip is to acknowledge questions from angry inquisitors, but to look at other audience members when answering them so it’s easier to move on to the next person and keep the discussion constructive.

If your topic is emotionally charged or you’re addressing a crisis, a safety recall, for example, have a facilitator filter the questions. They can compile a mix of tough questions and lighter ones that might get a laugh, and omit those that stray off topic or seem to have a personal agenda behind them.

They can also plant questions the audience might be too intimidated to ask, for instance, “Will people lose their jobs if we don’t make our numbers this year?”

Leaving a strong final impression:

Don’t end abruptly after the Q&A, it feels incomplete and unsatisfying to the audience, and you’ll miss an opportunity to reinforce your message. Wrap up the discussion with a brief summary that recaps the “new bliss” you’re helping the audience achieve.

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So, there you have it, my top tips for ensuring you have an impactful Q&A at the end of your next presentation. The power of Q&As is without a doubt one of the keys to making you look and sound like an authority on your chosen presentation topic.

Till next week. 

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Andrew is the CEO and founder of the Art of Business English. Besides teaching and coaching native Spanish speakers in Business English, he is also passionate about mountain biking, sailing and healthy living. When He is not working, Andrew loves to spend time with his family and friends.

Andrew Ambrosius

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