No matter how good your presentation is, the Q&A can kill you. And that’s a shame because learning to turn a response into a golden opportunity isn’t that hard.
There are two mistakes people usually make when fielding a question. First, they wing it: crossing their fingers and hoping the moderator asks them easy questions that they’ll know how to answer. The second is not realizing that you’re on stage and letting amateurishness blow a chance to demonstrate the kind of business diplomacy that makes positive impressions.
So, avoid those mistakes—and use these tips to ace your next Q&A:
- Start with positioning phrases. Don’t start your response with “great question.” Say, “Thanks for bringing that up; here’s what I can tell you….” A neutral reaction to questions helps to position you as a seasoned professional.
- Maintain control. Reframe negative or misleading questions to create a positive and accurate understanding of the issue. For example say, “Not exactly. Let me explain….”
- Think in sound bites. Give your responses as succinct, declarative sentences that illustrate how you’ve positively affected your colleagues, customers and community. For example, saying something along the lines of, “My clients will tell you that this approach works because of the results it’s brought them,” or “In the 17 years I’ve been in this industry, I have never seen anything that works better.”
- Enhance your messages. People gravitate to words like “significant,” “essential,” “exceptional,” and “unique” or “leading.” But use them judiciously. Bombast is a bummer.
- Avoid distracting mannerisms. Sit comfortably, but avoid crossing and uncrossing your legs. Gesture freely but keep your movements purposeful. When not speaking, rest your arms naturally in your lap or on the arms of the chair.
As a general rule, focus on the person asking the question and then turn your attention to the entire audience with phrases like “I’m sure others are wondering that as well.” Audiences observe everything, especially posture, energy and facial expressions. So remember to smile.
Before you act . . .
When crafting your presentation, make sure you’ve written a strong summary statement that reinforces your key messages. And feel free to draw on this statement during your Q&A.