Most speeches are structured without a question & answer portion. This is fine for short public speaking engagements. However, if you are giving long talks, workshops, or pitches, the situation is a lot more different. You have to make sure that your audience understands your message clearly, and so opening the floor to some clarification is highly necessary.
But how does one handle Q & As or open forums like a pro? Here are a few tips you can follow to ace that portion of your speech.
1. Anticipate the questions that may be asked.
Not knowing how to answer a question is highly possible. To make sure this doesn’t happen, take some time beforehand and think about the possible questions that may be asked. Put yourself in the shoes of your listeners. Or if you can, gather your friends and do a mock presentation. Ask them to formulate some questions so you can prepare for your speech ahead of time.
2. Structure your speech in a way that you are most comfortable of.
Being the speaker gives you the full power on how to go about your whole speech. You can use powerpoints, a lectern, go from point A to point B, and maybe even use some props. This includes deciding whether you want your question & answer portion at the end of your talk, or you will allow your audience to butt in some questions every now and then to allow clarifications immediately.
3. Be confident in answering.
As the speaker, the audience expects you to know what you are talking about front and back. Compose yourself to be confident that you can answer whatever gets thrown at you.
4. Make sure you answer the question.
We’ve all seen speakers who have been asked something and as they keep blabbing and blabbing on and on, you realize to yourself that they didn’t really answer the question. Do not be one of these speakers. Q & As are facilitated to enlighten the listeners, not create more confusion and misunderstanding. To make sure you are able to do this, ask the person, “Did that answer your question?”
5. Encourage everyone to ask questions.
Do you notice how there is always one member of the audience who seem to have unending set of questions? Give chance to others. In the most polite manner you can think of, try telling him or her that you would like to receive questions from a different person as well.
6. Make it a habit to repeat the question back to the audience.
This is a great technique for two reasons: one, it assures the one who asked that he or she understood the question, and two, it lets the other members of audience know what the question is. You have the loudest and most powerful voice in the room. If you receive a question from the left side of the room, the people from the right may not hear it well.
7. Listen to the entire question.
Don’t feel over the top with all the answering by immediately cutting someone off mid-question. Let them finish their question.
8. Educated guesses are okay.
This is of course provided that you have evidences to backup your deduction. You can start your answer by saying something like “Based on my knowledge..” or “From what I know..”
9. “Talk to me after the session.”
There are some questions that are best explained in a less time-constrained setup. If it is a question that is beyond what you presented, if you find it very difficult to understand the question, and if it requires a heavy explanation, you can tell them to talk to you after the session.
10. Credit the person who asked.
You may do this by saying “Glad you asked that question!” or “That was a great question.” This makes them feel that their question actually made sense. But always remember that if you’re crediting one person, be sure to credit everyone who does because you wouldn’t want them to feel that their question wasn’t important.
11. It’s okay not to know the answer.
As much as you tried to come prepared for your speech, keep in mind that there is always room for improvement. It’s okay not to know the answer. It’s just the matter of admitting to yourself and to the audience that you don’t. It’s not going to totally damage your reputation but it’s far better than trying to conjure up a response that may end up being wrong. This is also a great opportunity to ask your audience’s input regarding the matter.
12. Make your speech better.
Why was the question asked in the first place? It’s either because the audience have an inquisitive mind and they are really curious about some things or because it’s on you, or you may have lacked information or failed to properly explain something. With the Q & A that you will hold, you can identify some of your weak areas and areas that need improvement on, so that next time, these kinds of questions won’t be asked.
Try out a Q & A on your next speech and see how this new form of interaction between you and your listeners can take learning to the next level. Always be on the top of your game and engage with your audience one step ahead of others. For private public speaking lessons, you may contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.