Power presentations: Ace a Q&A exchange

Q&A chalkboardWhen you open the floor to questions, you must still retain command of the proceedings. To engineer a crisp, informative Q&A, apply these techniques.

1. Specify when you’ll take questions. Begin your speech by saying, “I’ll take questions at the end” or “Please hold your questions. I’ll stop after each segment and answer them.”

2. Ignore loudmouths. Only recognize questioners who raise their hands first. If someone keeps shouting from the audience, say, “I’ll take your question after these two people who have their hands up.”

3. Stop babblers from holding court. Some people will give lectures rather than ask questions. If audience members don’t make an inquiry within the first 15 seconds, interrupt and say, “Please ask a question. I’d like to answer as many as I can in the limited time that’s left.”

4. Put a cap on follow-ups. Some questioners will not let go. After taking one follow-up question, say, “Let’s give others a chance to participate.”

5. Give succinct answers. Ensure the first sentence out of your mouth answers the question. Whether you give a yes/no/maybe reply or summarize your opinion, provide a quick response. Then briefly support your answer, citing evidence or experience. Evading the question—or rambling—frustrates listeners and you’ll lose credibility.

— Adapted from The Media Training Bible, Brad Phillips, SpeakGood Press.