In our communication skills workshops, we spend a good bit of time focused on Q&A. In fact, we feel it’s probably the most important element of a presentation. It’s when what really matters to the listeners gets addressed. It’s also the point at which the speaker’s credibility is tested and confirmed (or destroyed…yikes!).

Here are 5 questions about questions that get asked frequently by our workshop participants:

1. What do I say if I don’t know the answer to a question?
Occasionally “I don’t know” is a perfectly acceptable answer. It reassures the listener that you’re a straight shooter. Even better is to commit to finding out the answer and getting back to them. The best way to avoid too many “I don’t knows” is to spend time preparing by thinking of all the questions you might get, and then practicing answering them.

2. Should I take questions at the end? Or throughout the presentation?
Take questions throughout. This creates a conversational atmosphere with your audience and ensures you’re talking about what matters most to them.

3. Is it ok to “add on” to my co-presenter’s answer if there’s something they could have said better or more clearly?
No! There’s no faster way to undermine your co-presenter’s credibility than to “pile on” to their answers. Let their answer be the answer and move on.

4. When someone asks a question, should I just respond to them? Or should I address the whole audience?
In the first sentence or two, answer the question by speaking directly to the person who asked it. If the answer calls for a bit of explanation beyond that, then address the entire audience.

5. How do I respond to someone who doesn’t really ask a question, they’re just angry or frustrated and using Q&A as a platform to vent?
Typically people who do this just want their voice to be heard. In these “hostile” situations, it’s best to empathize and reassure. It may sound like this: “I can imagine that getting an incorrect invoice is incredibly frustrating, and I want you to know that we’re aware of the problem and have a team of programmers working to solve it.”

Joey Asher

Joey AsherJoey Asher has worked with thousands of business people helping them learn how to communicate in a way that connects with clients. His new book 15 Minutes Including Q&A: a Plan to Save the World from Lousy Presentations” is available now. He is also the author three previous books including “How to Win a Pitch: The Five Fundamentals That Will Distinguish You from the Competition”, “Selling and Communication Skills for Lawyers” and “Even A Geek Can Speak.”