You've prepared your presentation and delivered it flawlessly. But there's one more hurdle to get through before you can declare the event a success: the presentation questions and answers session, or Q&A.
It's the time when your audience gets to ask questions, and sometimes you've got no idea what they're going to ask. So, how can you wrap up your presentation in style? In this guide, I'll share tips and expert advice on responding to questions after a presentation, so you can nail the Q&A session.
Why People Worry About the Q&A
Even seasoned public speakers can be terrified by the thought of the question and answer session in a presentation. You may believe that your audience should be a part of your presentation but still be worried when it's time to invite questions from the audience. One reason for this is the lack of control. After all, as the presenter, you've got no idea what audience members are going to ask.
The tutorial below will help you overcome other fears about public speaking you may have:
Another concern about taking questions in presentations is that you won't know the answers. If you're new to public speaking, taking questions can be even more nerve-wracking. Some presenters feel they're not good at improvising and will be floored by unexpected questions. Overall, presenters worry about looking silly in front of the audience. There are tips for handling all those issues in this guide.
Why You Should Include a Q & A Section in Your Presentation
So, why is it important to include a Q&A session? There are several benefits to inviting questions from the audience at the end of your presentation. For a start, your audience should be a part of your presentation if you want to make your session more interesting and engaging. Taking feedback questions for a presentation is one way to do this.
A Q&A session is a great chance to connect more with your audience and complete the process that you've started with the presentation. Most presentations are concise, and don't cover everything to avoid boring the audience. So, responding to questions gives you another chance to showcase your expertise by expanding on points made in the main presentations.
Another great thing is that a lively question and answer session in a presentation tells you that people are interested in what you've got to tell them and engaged with your topic.
Public Speaking Trainer Gary Genard says:
"Too often, speeches have the feeling of a monologue, delivered through a one-way dynamic to a polite but anesthetized crowd of onlookers. The back-and-forth of Q & A should feel more comfortable to you AND your listeners. Best of all, when you’re conversing about a topic you truly care about, all of your best qualities as a speaker will emerge."
The Q&A is excellent feedback for a presenter and gives you the confidence you need for future presentations on your topic. And a good Q&A shows your expertise.
Wondering how to invite questions at the end of a presentation? Use a questions image for your presentation and leave it up when you've finished presenting the main content.
I'll talk more about creating your Q&A slide later in this article, but the following guide is a good starting point:
How to Prepare for Questions After a Presentation
Presentation questions don't have to take you by surprise. As a presenter, there are several tasks you can do in advance, so you're ready for anything your audience throws at you. Here are some tips to help you handle presentation questions:
1. Know Your Topic
One of the best preparations is to know your topic inside out. If you're an expert on the subject you're presenting on, there's little that can faze you.
2. Know Your Audience
When preparing to invite questions from the audience, research is key. If you know who you're presenting to, tailor the information to their interests. This same research will also help you figure out what might be coming up in the Q&A.
3. Hold Back Some Information
Your presentation question session will be easier if you've got some new information left to share. If your presentation is concise, you'll have useful data that didn't make the final cut. Some of this can help you answer your audience's questions.
4. Prepare for the Most Likely Questions
Responding to questions with a little preparation. Go through your presentation and try to see where audience members might want clarification or extra insight. Do a little more research so you've got supporting statistics on hand. Check to see if there's a related topic that might follow naturally from something you present.
Content Strategist and Founder of Write Minds, Jacob McMillen says:
"My biggest fear heading into my first Q&A was that the audience might not ask interesting followup questions, so I could keep the discussion moving. I overcame this fear by spending a bit more time than was probably necessary preparing for the session and thinking through what I'd say if it was left to me to fill dead space."
5. Lead Your Audience
Related to that, you can subtly invite questions from the audience by giving them a teaser. This encourages them to ask a question about information you've already prepared. For example, if you use a surprising or interesting fact, it's almost certain someone will ask for more information.
6. Decide When to Respond to Questions
There's no set time frame for responding to questions. As the presenter, it's completely up to you when to run a question and answer session for your presentation. There are two options:
- Let people ask questions throughout your presentation.
- take all questions at the end.
Each method has pros and cons.
If you go with interactive questions for your presentation, and take them throughout, it's easy to tell when your audience is engaged. That's affirming, and you also won't have to remember to come back to a topic later. But taking questions throughout can also interrupt both the flow of the presentation and your train of thought. That can make it harder to follow for your audience.
If you take presentation questions at the end, then you can focus on delivering the best presentation you can, without worrying about interruptions. That makes it less interactive during the presentation itself. But it means both you and your audience can easily follow the issue you're presenting.
Amma Marfo, Professional Writer, Speaker and Trainer, says:
"If the topic is one where understanding is needed to move forward (e.g. if I've shared a framework or am building layers of knowledge), I'll take questions throughout. If it's less essential that all points are understood to move forward, I'll hold until the end.
I find myself asking for questions throughout more and more on digital/virtual events, because it's a means to ensure that participants are engaged. These questions can take the form of "what questions do you have?" (preferred to "any questions?" because someone might hedge if they think no one else has questions), or can show up in the form of polls, thumbscales (thumbs up if you feel good about this, thumbs down if you feel bad), or even share an emoji if I feel confident that the audience will universally know how to do so on their device :)"
A good middle ground, especially for a longer presentation, is to take questions at specific times. For example, if you're making several main points, you could have a brief Q&A after each of them.
Whichever you choose, you can signal your audience that it's time for questions by adding a Q&A slide to your presentation. Include:
- the presentation title
- your name
- the word "questions"
Many premium presentation themes include a well-designed questions image for your presentation.
7 Tips on Responding to Questions
Ready to invite questions at the end of your presentation? Here are some tips on handling your Q&A session:
1. Listen to the Presentation Questions
Handling questions in presentations starts with listening. Listen to make sure you understand what the audience member is asking. Don't be afraid to ask the person to repeat the question if you think you've missed something. This is also a good way to get more thinking time.
2. Acknowledge the Questioner
Acknowledge the questioner, even if it's simply by saying: "that's a good question." This makes your audience member feel good and buys you a little time to think about your response.
3. Empathize With the Audience
Audience members want to know you empathize with their concerns. If you know your topic, you'll understand WHY they're asking a particular question, and can use that as a lead in to your response.
4. Promise to Follow Up
Every now and then you get a question you really can't answer on the spot. There's no need for terror. Simply let the questioner know that you'll follow up afterwards and do it as soon as possible after the presentation. That may even be a good time for some self-deprecating humor, as experts recommend in the following article:
- PresentationsHow to Make a Presentation More Humorous (With 7 Top Tips from Experts)Sharon Hurley Hall
5. Get Some Help
You don't have to answer all questions in presentations yourself. If there's an expert in the audience who's likely to have relevant information, call on that person. Even better, if you know the list of attendees, give that expert some advance warning. Either way, it'll make your Q&A even more useful for your audience.
6. Stay in Control
If an audience member starts to ramble, don't be afraid to rein them in. Gently interrupt and clarify to keep the session relevant, interesting, and on-topic for the rest of your audience. Jacob McMillen says:
"Staying on topic is really just about spending more time on the things you feel are "on topic" and less time on that things that aren't. If the audience member tries to dive into something that I don't want to take about, I just give a relatively brief answer that communicates I'd prefer to move on, and then when I'm answering something I do want to talk about, I really dive in and take some time to give a comprehensive answer."
7. Have Someone Monitor the Chat
If you're presenting online, then taking questions can be slightly more complex. Often, people use a chat function to post questions during the presentation. It's essential to have someone monitor the chat so you don't miss anything
There are more tips on virtual presentations in our remote meetings guide:
- PresentationsHow to Run Effective Virtual Meetings in 2020 (With Pro Remote/Online Tips)Sharon Hurley Hall
Finally, summarize your presentation at the end of the Q&A. This lets you leave your audience with the core message you want to get across.
How to Respond When People Disagree
Interactive questions for presentation sessions are all well and good, but what happens if an audience member strongly - and vocally - disagrees with what you're saying. A good way to handle disagreement is to:
- Acknowledge the question.
- Clarify to make sure you understand the questioner's perspective.
- Identify where you agree (hopefully you'll agree on some points).
- Explain why your perspective is different - and why - on issues where there's disagreement.
Amma Marfo has this to say about handling disagreements:
"For me, it depends on if the disagreement is grounded in information or ideals. If it's an informational dispute, I try to cite sources and encourage others who may know of additional information to share it. Those tend to be easier because there's a theoretical right answer.
The challenge is if the dispute is ideological (or, ideological masquerading as informational). When those kinds of disputes arise, I state my position and try to hold there. If it escalates to where I can tell the person wants to be heard or "heard out," *and the argument is a good faith one*, I refer them to another way to get in touch. Let's continue this over email, or perhaps a phone call.
I don't entertain bad faith arguments, especially if they're grounded in denying the humanity of people - racism, sexism, -phobias or bigotry - and will typically move the conversation along for the sake of time."
How to Create a Winning Presentation
To create a presentation that gets attention, consider using a premium presentation template from Envato Elements. Premium templates are well-designed and well-supported. They can also save you time when creating presentations, and help you achieve a great look even if you don't have strong design skills.
If you want a great-looking template for your next presentation, Envato Elements has an offer you won't want to miss. Download as many presentation templates as you want, all for one low price. If you only need a single presentation questions template, consider the options at GraphicRiver, where you can get attractive presentation templates for a questions and answer session for one-off use.
Here are some cool templates to use the next time you're taking presentation questions:
- Microsoft PowerPoint35 Cool PowerPoint Templates (Amazing PPTs Slides For Presentations in 2020)Laura Spencer
- Microsoft PowerPoint32+ Professional PowerPoint Templates: For Better Business PPT PresentationsSean Hodge
- Presentations30 PPT Templates: To Make Simple Modern PowerPoint Presentations in 2020Sean Hodge
Learn More About PowerPoint Presentations
To learn more about using PowerPoint for presentations, check out the following guides:
- PresentationsHow to Create Great PowerPoint Presentations (With Top 2020 Examples)Laura Spencer
- PresentationsThe Complete Guide to Making Great Business Presentations in 2019Laura Spencer
- PresentationsHow to Write a Professional PowerPoint Presentation (Discover the Writing Process)Brad Smith
- Microsoft PowerPoint50 Effective PowerPoint Presentation Tips (To Improve Your Skills)Brad Smith
Prep for Your Presentation Q&A Session Today
As we've seen, the Q&A session doesn't have to be a nightmare. With the right preparation you can handle presentation questions efficiently and respectfully while still coming across as the expert. Don't forget that you can create an eye-catching presentation with premium templates from Envato Elements. You can also get appealing presentation templates for one-off use from GraphicRiver. Start creating your next presentation today!
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