Q&A sessions, although sometimes unpleasant, should be welcomed since they are a sign of audience engagement. It’s crucial to prepare for this end-of-presentation segment, as your audience members will likely remember if they got the answers they’re seeking—or if the session went off the rails. Don’t crumble under the pressure. Instead, rely on these four tips when approaching any Q&A session:
No matter the subject or the audience makeup, remain calm. Control your nerves, keep your cool and portray confidence. Make it your rule to be polite and respectful to all.
Say what you know to be true within the bounds of what is legal, ethical and appropriate. Leaders know they can’t afford to speak anything but the truth because there is too much to lose. Telling the truth though doesn’t mean disclosing everything. Be judicious about the information you share. If you cannot discuss something, explain why you can’t. Keep in mind that it’s acceptable to say you do not know something if you don’t. People will be patient if you need to get back to them, but lies will not tolerated.
Give concrete examples, which will often provide clarity. If you’re too vague, you will come across as evasive or unknowledgeable.
Listen to what your audience is saying as well as what it is feeling. Pick up on the “question behind the question.” Listen for the emotion expressed in questions and get to the heart of the matter. Your genuine curiosity and empathy will help you win over an audience.
Remember – questions are a sign of continued engagement with your audience. Learn how to prepare for your next Q&A with the “98% rule.”