When we’re giving a presentation or speaking at a function it’s always a good idea to arrange for a question and answer period. This period serves a couple of purposes: It breaks up your monologue, it involves the audience and it can serve to clarify the points you are trying to communicate. It’s also valuable time for you to better connect with our audience as that “open” time lets them see you in a more spontaneous and free.
So what are some do’s and don’ts for organizing this session?
Have your host set some boundaries. You might suggest that no question be longer than fifteen seconds and you should try to keep your answers to a minute or less. There’s nothing worse than mike-grabbing, attention-seeking quasi orators who see this session as a way for them to have their few minutes of fame. Your host can help you stop that behavior. Also, there’s not enough time for you to cover every facet of some questions. Briefly explain to the audience that a complete answer would take too long and select one aspect to answer.
Be gracious and swallow. When there are difficult questions that seem to damage what you’ve just said graciously thank the person, swallow and don’t feel compelled to debate at that point in the session. Why swallow? Because swallowing is relaxing and gives you a minute to catch yourself as the question may catch you off guard. Then you can say something like, “You’ve brought up something I’ve never thought of,” or, “This is new to me I’d like to study it more.” Make sure you graciously, not sarcastically, reply and let them know you’ll check it out. Ask the host to write down the information, including the person’s contact, so you can reply once you’ve had a chance to examine the new issue.
Be prepared for sleazeballs. Be ready for the unexpected question, the jab and the clown. They may not be at this meeting, but you can always come prepared. Again, be gracious, but don’t let yourself be a target. Look to the host for help or even the audience.
Be open and honest. If you don’t know an answer admit it and let the person know that if they give the host their contact information, you’ll get back to them. People will appreciate your honesty.
Keep to your schedule. People have a tendency to let this session go on far too long and it drives the audience to try and find questions to ask. If you told them ten minutes, stick to ten minutes. Holding to your schedule keeps things moving at a good pace and it also lessens the opportunity for someone to simply ask questions to ask questions. It’s never a bad idea to have a crowd who wants more. It could mean a return engagement.
Q&A sessions are a valuable time for you to relate to your audience and clarify your talk. When they are managed correctly, they can be stimulating and create an excitement that has opportunity to spill over into your product sales table