Handling the Q&A Session – 8 Public Speaking Tools

A Q&A session can either deepen or damage the connection you have with your audience. Take a look at some Q&A sessions I held overseas and then read the following 8 keys to having an excellent Q&A session that builds your credibility and increases their confidence in you and your message.

Key 1: Set expectations as to how many questions you will take or how long you will entertain questions. For example, I usually say, We will take 4 or 5 questions and then I will wrap up the message. Or I might say, We have 5 minutes for questions and then we will put a bow on the message for today.

Along with setting expectations, you should also let your audience know that this is not the end. Why? Because, if you have some of my courses or are a member of the Speak and Prosper Academy, you probably know that you should NOT close your speech with the Q&A. Why?

“People remember best what they hear first and what they hear last.”

You can have a Q&A but don’t make it the last thing your audience hears.

This is why I add and then we will wrap up the message. Otherwise, because audiences are used to most speakers ending with the Q&A, they might think you are at the end, which could prompt them to start packing up their papers and shuffling around in anticipation of leaving. You can solve this by setting the right expectations at the beginning of the Q and A.

Key 2: Do not ask, Do you have any questions? or Are there any questions? People might not respond. Instead, ask, What questions do you have? This is no longer about whether or not they have a question; it is about what questions they have and how many. Questions will flow out if you prompt in an open-ended way rather than using the yes or no question.

Key 3: Repeat the question out loud. This accomplishes the following three things:

  1. It affirms the person who asked the question and makes him or her feel understood.
  2. It helps the other audience members understand what was asked because many times the questioner does not have a microphone.
  3. It gives you time to formulate your response.

Key 4: Frame your responses. For example, if it is going to be a 3-part response, let them know. You might say, There are 3 critical strategies you can use. First, second…and finally… This way, even if you do speak a little longer than you want, it will not feel like you are rambling. It will still be a structured response.

Key 5: Make sure your answers are brief. Anticipate what they will ask and prepare for those answers in advance. The longer your answer, the quicker they will stop believing you.

Key 6: Try to call on questioners from all 4 major sections of your audience. Call on someone in the front, the back, to the left, and to the right. Make them all feel involved.

Key 7: Acknowledge the importance or validity of the question. I know some speakers say, Do not tell people they asked a good question because then everyone else you did not say that to will get offended. If somebody gets offended because you praised someone else, that is their personal problem and not yours. Occasionally saying, Great question does much more good than harm. However, only say it if you mean it and don’t overdo it.

Key 8: Occasionally ask, Does that make sense? Do not overdo it, but do use it especially if you are not sure you addressed the person’s question adequately or you read uncertainty on the person’s face (or heard it in the person’s voice). It does not hurt to check.

Final Thoughts

This may seem like a lot but please remember that these are just guidelines and not strict rules. However, if you follow them on a regular basis, you’ll likely exceed your audiences’ expectations. Don’t be surprised if  they bring you back again.

Your Turn

What is a guideline YOU follow for your Q&A?


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Craig Valentine

As a motivational speaker I've been fortunate to have spoken in over 20 countries, and back in 1999 Toastmasters International awarded me the World Champion of Public Speaking.

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