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Questions, anyone?

Handling Q&A smoothly will stimulate listeners

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in Leaders & Managers,Office Management

You give a great speech, only to fall apart during the Q&A. Unscripted interplay may cause you to stutter, misspeak and repeat yourself.

Here’s how to field questions like a pro:

Mentally construct your opening sentence before you say a word. That way, you’ll get off to a good start without taking an instant misstep. Make sure your first sentence provides at least a partial answer. If you can’t start with yes-no-maybe, explain how you’ll respond. Examples: “I can answer that by sharing my experience in a similar situation,” or, “Before I answer, let me give some quick background.”

Ward off the “press conference curse.” Watch any White House press conference and you’ll see how the president or press secretary repeats the same rehearsed words (“We’re seriously pursuing that,” or, “We welcome that”). It’s better to shorten your answer than prolong it by spouting the same empty phrases over and over.

Speak within your comfort zone. Don’t use fancy words, even if the questioner tries to dazzle you with his vocabulary. Most listeners will be grateful if you talk with them in plain English—not over their heads.

Give yourself wiggle room. Never box yourself into a corner by saying, “I have time for one last question.” Why? If your answer bombs or you end on a downer, you’ll want the option to field another question. Get in the habit of saying, “We have a few minutes left, so can I take another question?”

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