“Does anybody have any questions about what I’ve covered today?”
Blank looks all round.
An uncomfortable thirty seconds of silence, as everyone cranes their neck to see if someone is going to ask a question.
“Okay folks, well thanks for listening.”
Does this scene seem familiar to you? Does the mere suggestion of a Q&A at the end of your speech make you cringe? Then you need to follow the following five steps to get interesting, thoughtful questions in your next Q&A.
1. Have a questions policy
Before you speak, decide how you want to answer questions – are you happy for people to interrupt you, or would you prefer to dedicate set times for people to ask. Near the start of your speech, let everyone know what you want to them to do with their questions (save them or shout them out). Encourage them to think about questions throughout your speech, and they will ask more thoughtful things when the time comes.
2. Get people to speak and be involved throughout your presentation
If people have been sat listening for an hour, and you suddenly ask them to speak, they won’t feel like it. But if you’ve already shown them that speaking is okay, and encouraged them to use their voice before, they will be more relaxed, and the atmosphere will be right for people to ask questions.
3. Encourage questions
Show that you like and welcome questions: give your whole attention to the person who asks the question, and even check back with them to make sure your answer was what they wanted; praise good questions; and keep your answers short and to the point.
4. Be strict
Once people do start asking questions, your job can become different for another reason. As the speaker, it is your job to keep order in the room. Have solutions ready for the most common disruptive audience members. Here are a few common problems:
- Asking questions which aren’t really related, or are too specific for most of the audience.
- Hogging the mic, and asking two or three questions.
- Not speaking clearly enough.
5. Don’t make the Q&A last
You’ve given a great speech, answered questions well, and run out of time just as you finish explaining the problems with implementing your proposal on the database. BORING. Make sure your audience leaves with your message ringing in their ears, by saying a few words after the Q&A. Hint: this is where you recap what you’ve said, and spell your message out.