072514-biz2 Talking Points

Q&As can be an important part of a presentation. It is an opportunity to interact with your audience. Questions give you—the speaker—an opportunity to show more of your expertise, as well as feedback on what you can better cover in your next presentation.

Some guidelines:

In your opening, tell the audience how you will be handling questions. The options are:

• Throughout the presentation

This choice—unless presenting a workshop—is not advised for a number of reasons, including the fact that it is too easy to lose track of time and not give the needed length of time to all the material you want to present.

• After presenting specific components of the talk

This can work well, but keep your eye on the clock; and cut off each Q&A segment on time so the entire presentation can be completed.

• Before your Conclusion

I like this one! You, the presenter, are in charge! Taking questions in this manner eliminates interruptions and allows—if you’ve planned and rehearsed well—the entire topic to be presented as you intended.

Don't take questions after closing your presentation. The closing is the closing. Here’s why: The law of primacy and recency says the last thing the speaker says and does will be the first thing the audience will remember.

Prime the Pump!

People often are reluctant to be the first to ask a question. Prime the pump by:

• Planting a few questions with audience members before you present.

• You ask the first question. This can be done in several ways, including: I've got the first question. One of the questions I'm typically asked is…

• In your opening, tell the audience you will start the Q&A by reading questions from several audience participants. Ask them to write questions on a piece of paper throughout your talk, collect them during a break, and sort them to answer the ones you choose.

Additional Guidelines

• When you start the Q&A part of your presentation, do not ask, Do you have any questions?

• Some will be saying to themselves, while looking around and seeing few if any, hands raised, I’ve got questions. Since no one is raising their hand, I must have missed something. I’m not going to embarrass myself by asking!

• It’s best to say, When I opened my presentation, I said I’d set aside time for questions. This is that time. What questions do you have for me? (Improve the odds you’ll be asked questions by raising your hand when saying those words!)

• If there is any chance the audience didn't hear the question, repeat it.

• If you are not sure the audience, or you, understood the question, paraphrase it and ask the questioner if your understanding is correct.

• Never put someone on the spot by pointing them out, or addressing them by name, and asking a question. It could make them uncomfortable. And the rest of your audience might sense this, making them uncomfortable, too. They'll also be wondering, Am I next?

• Watch your time. Allow a certain amount for questions and answers. If there are more questions, give options, such as speaking to you after the presentation or emailing them to you.

• If you don't know the answer, don't fake it. Say, That's one I'll have to think about. Let me get back to you later on that.

• If the question and audience member disagree with your position, don't get into a nasty public confrontation with them. Affirm by saying, We have different opinions on that. Perhaps we can discuss this after the event.

• Don’t respond to a question by saying, Good question! If you use that phrase, how do you address the next question? Another Good question!? And the one after that? It’s better to say, I'm glad you asked that.

Follow this advice for handling questions and I guarantee your next presentation will be absolutely, positively - NO SWEAT!

Fred Miller is the author of NO SWEAT Public Speaking! For more information, email him at Fred@NoSweatPublicSpeaking.com or visit NoSweatPublicSpeaking.com.

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