How to Handle the Q&A Session

You aced the presentation — don’t let the Q&A session take you down! Whether it’s a room full of people or just a few team members, properly handling the question and answer section of a presentation will either enforce your message — or undermine it. In this post I share 10 tips and techniques for handling the Q&A session with ease.

Before the Q&A

1) Allocate Time

Too often, speakers fill their entire allotted time with their (formal) presentation. The consequence is that the Q&A session either doesn’t happen, it’s rushed or it is forced to run overtime. Always budget time for the Q&A when planning your presentation.

Q&A

2) Anticipate Questions

Look at your presentation objectively, and use audience analysis (in the preparation phase) to predict questions. Run though a mock Q&A session with some trusted colleagues, family or friends. They are guaranteed to come up with some tricky questions that you didn’t expect. Encourage them to evaluate your responses.

Learn more about the process for valuable feedback here.

During the Q&A

3) Restate the Question

When a person asks a question from the floor, take a moment to repeat it. Doing this provides two benefits:

  • You increase the likelihood that the audience has heard the question
  • You increase the likelihood that you understand the question being asked

Q&A

4) Focus on the Questioner

Show them professional courtesy by listening to their entire question before beginning your response. Smile and look your questioner in the eye as you answer their question. The eye contact shows that you are focusing carefully on the question and the questioner. The smile is an invitation to friendship and connection.

Learn more about audience connection here.

5) Stay on Topic

Presenters will often say “This is getting off topic, but the answer is…” and then proceed to bore most of the audience. It’s better to say “That’s a great question, but a little off topic. I’m happy to discuss that with you after the presentation.”

For relevant questions, keep your answers clear and to the point. If you feel yourself waffling, stop, take a breath and confirm the key points of your answer.

Q&A

6) Be Honest

Maintain your integrity whenever and wherever you speak. Answer questions straight. If you don’t know an answer, then just say so. Don’t lie. Don’t mislead. Nothing erodes the credibility you’ve built with the audience or makes them doubt your message more than avoiding the question.

7) Involve the Audience

The best presentations are those that involve the audience and become a conversation rather than just a lecture. The same applies to Q&A sessions. The best way to involve an audience in Q&A is by opening up some questions to the audience. Ask their opinion, or if anyone in the room has anything to add to your response.

Q&A

After the Q&A

8) Invite Follow-Ups

Stick around after your presentation, or make yourself available at a later time. Provide contact information. Your goal is to leave no question unanswered.

9) End with a Conclusion

Don’t end your presentation with your last Q&A response. Save your concluding words (containing the key message) for after the Q&A.

10) Finish on Time

Finish on time and your audience will be forever grateful to you.

Q&A

Many people fear the question and answer session more than the formal presentation itself. For them, it represents the unknown, the uncontrolled and an opportunity for things to go terribly wrong. 

In reality the Q&A session is an opportunity to demonstrate your expertise even further and to double check that your audience have received your key message loud and clear. Wishing you the best of luck!