7 Quick Q&A Tips

When you get to the end of your presentation, you generally will have a question-and-answer or Q&A session. Here are 7 helpful tips for making your Q&A successful.

– Encourage questions

When you finish your presentation, you should ask your audience if they have any questions. Make this open and warm by saying something like, “Feel free to ask me any questions” as opposed to cooler response such as, “I was told to give you 15 minutes for questions, so fire away.”

One of the ways to ensure that your audience receives your presentation well is when they feel that you’re comfortable in your own skin. When you ask for questions, it sends a message that you want to hear from your audience (that’s good!), and that you feel comfortable being put on the spot. So, encourage questions during your Q&A.

– Don’t let one person ask all the questions

You want to be open in answering questions from your audience, but that doesn’t give one audience member a license to ask all the questions. The audience will recognize if somebody is trying to dominate the conversation, so feel free to take charge – you are the one in control of your presentation.

If someone dominates the Q&A, say something like, “I’m happy to answer more of your questions after the session is over, but I’d like to give other members of the audience a chance to ask a question. Are there any other questions?”

Don’t blow the person off, but don’t let them take control of your presentation by dominating the conversation.

– Be honest and don’t try to make things up

Many times you might find yourself unable to answer a question that’s posed to you. It may be that you’ve never thought of that question before or that you just don’t have the information in front of you.

Regardless, if you don’t know the answer, just say that you don’t know the answer. Experts don’t always have all of the answers at the tip of their tongue. But whatever you do, don’t try to make up an answer just to make it look like you have one. It’s bad form.

– Have an example question ready

Sometimes when you start the Q&A, you hear silence. The audience may not be ready or know what to ask. In preparing for your presentation, you may want to have an example question ready that you can ask it to yourself, and then answer it.

You might say, “Well, here’s a question that I’ve been asked before.” Go ahead and ask the question, and then give your answer. This warms the audience up for the Q&A and presents them with an example of the types of questions that are worth asking. This should get things going on the right foot.

– Keep your answers short

It can sometimes be easy to answer a question in a lengthly and detailed way. Key tip — Don’t do it!

If someone asks a question, your audience may want to hear your answer. However, they don’t want every chapter and verse detailing that answer. If you need to get into a lengthly explanation, give a short answer and then ask the questioner if you can talk with them offline.

Your audience wants to hear short, concise answers, so value their time by staying away for answers that are too long.

– Manage the questions effectively

The Q&A part of your presentation is limited, so you need to have a handle on how to manage the questions. When someone asks a question, it’s usually good to repeat the question itself, maybe in your own words. This lets others in the audience hear the question (the questioner might be too soft-spoken), and it also allows you to rephrase a difficult question into something that can be answered more easily.

Of course, you may get repeat questions or people who aren’t even asking you questions – they’re making speeches. When this happens, it’s usually good to steer clear of engaging with these folks, so here are some tips for handling this.

If you get a repeat question, just say, “Well, that question is similar to one I answered before. I’m happy to speak with you after the presentation if you’d like a more detailed answer.” If you get a speechmaker, politely ask if they have a concise question, and if they persist, just say, “I’m happy to talk with you later about that point. Let me see if there’s anyone else who has a question.”

– Keep your cool

Sometimes the questions can be tough and the questioners can be even tougher. But don’t lose your cool or get angry when responding.

Remember, you’re in control of your presentation, not your audience. Being defensive with your responses indicates that you’re not in control, so work hard on maintaining your emotions. If the questioner has made a good point about your presentation which becomes difficult to answer, acknowledge it. Just say, “That’s a very good point — one worth looking into more.”

What you don’t want to do is get into an argument with a questioner, since regardless of who is right in the argument, the presenter comes out the loser. Stay in control of your emotions and you’ll come out of a tough Q&A session well.

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I currently serve as Vice President of Decision Science at CenturyLink. I've previously served as a leader in the Advanced Risk & Compliance Analytics (ARCA) practice at PwC and as Director of Data Science & Analytics Engineering at Areté Associates. I've served the public as Chair of the Thousand Oaks, CA Planning Commission. I have been married to my wife Stephanie since 1993, and we have a wonderful daughter Monroe. Learn more about me »

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