How to Handle Q&A; Sessions
Career professionals who routinely give presentations or training seminars include a question and answer session as part of their presentation. Managing this portion requires leadership skills and the ability to keep participants on topic.
You don’t want participants hijacking the session to voice their complaints or promote their personal agendas. Provide detailed instructions about the structure of your question and answer session to keep everyone focused and on task.
Explain the Guidelines
Before you dive into your speech, explain to your guests that you’ll be hosting a question and answer session at the conclusion of your presentation. Encourage participants to save their questions until then.
Once you conclude your presentation, lay out the guidelines for the Q-and-A session, such as making sure that questions fit within the scope of the presentation and aren’t used to voice criticism or complaints.
Be sure to state any topics that you won’t be able to address, such as financial details or confidential information.
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When your guests don’t have any questions or are too shy to voice them, offer some suggestions to keep the ball rolling. For example, you might start the session with “Sometimes I’m asked…” or “Other seminar guests often wonder…”
Answer your own question, but don’t dwell on it too long. The goal is to promote interest in your topic and help participants feel comfortable asking their own questions.
Repeat guests’ questions aloud before you answer, unless you’re in a small room and are certain everyone can hear. When a question is unclear, you might say, “I just want to make sure I understand what you’re asking,” then rephrase the question to the best of your ability.
Always credit the person who asked the question by saying, “That’s a great question,” “I’m so glad you asked that question” or “Others are probably wondering the same thing,” suggests Lenny Laskowski, international professional speaker and president of LJL Seminars.
End With a Bang
Make sure you have the last word at the end of your Q-and-A session. The first and last questions and answers receive the audience’s highest level of attention, according to New York University.
You might end with a brief summary, a challenge to act or an advertisement for future presentations you’ll be hosting.
Thank your guests for their participation and provide your contact information, such as an email address, so they can contact you with any other questions they might have.
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