How to Keep Your Presentation Q&A Friendly

Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand.

– Chinese proverb

A lot of presenters dread Q&A sessions. They don’t want to be seen struggling for answers to tough questions. They are afraid of personal or contentious questions that an audience member may throw at them.

When done right, this is an effective way to involve your audience and make sure your message sticks.

You can create an interesting and enjoyable Q&A session provided you brainstorm and make sure you’ve done your preparation.

PREPARATION IS KEY

Anticipate audience questions or answers you want from them. If you’re the one asking questions, frame them in context to the topic. You can start off your session with a query, having a Q&A break at defined points of your presentation, or save it for the close. This gives you some leeway to mould and adapt your questions and answers at the live session.

GET THE BALL ROLLING

Before you begin, make it clear to the audience that you’ll be asking questions or expecting some from them. This ensures that they remain interested and pay close attention to what you’re saying. If you’re presenting for a social cause or on a general topic, you can pre-empt people from asking invasive questions. Give them an idea of questions you’ll be asking, the designated time slots, and questions they can ask in return.

TURN PASSIVE INTO ACTIVE

While audiences are traditionally used to lectures and being a passive onlooker, social media has allowed them to react and engage at a greater level. Give them the chance to be active particpants. Encourage them to interact by:

  • answering poll or survey questions,
  • guessing a particular theme, statistic or solution,
  • having peer-to-peer discussions with other members,
  • jotting down the points that need clarifying.

PRESENTATION MATTERS

To enable the audience to ask relevant questions, look at your presentation first. Is it aimed at the knowledge level of your audience? If it’s too simple or too complicated, they will barely have questions for you. Match your presentation to their level of understanding or a little above it. Another overlooked aspect is topic focus. If you cover many sub-topics or too little of your subject, this may confuse (or worse still, bore) your audience which will decrease the likelihood of them participating fully in Q&A.

MIND YOUR Q&A MANNERS

  • Remain open, honest and energetic during the session
  • Let audience members ask a question or provide an answer without interrupting them
  • Focus on brevity without coming off as impatient or rude
  • Don’t let one or two people hog the limelight
  • Repeat a member’s question for everyone in the room to hear
  • Give the audience time to fine-tune their questions and discuss it with their team or neighbours

Have you participated in a memorable Q& A session? Do you have other useful tips to share?