How to Prepare for Q&A
Answering questions can be an important part of your presentation. And you must prepare for it with the same focus and intensity that you use to prepare the presentation itself.
Decide when you will handle the questions (in the middle or near the end of your presentation, never at the end itself).
Decide how you will take questions (raised hand, submitted ahead of time on index cards, via social media, etc.).
List out frequently-asked questions (FAQs) based on your knowledge of the topic and your previous experience. You can also ask someone to listen to your practice presentation and come up with questions.
Add to the list difficult questions you would hate to have to answer.
Prepare a response to each question on your list. Write it out or outline it or practice saying it out loud (not to memorize it, but to get comfortable with the general answer, no matter how you say it).
You also need to prepare responses to 2 more types of questions:
1. Those you don’t have the answer to.
There may be questions you didn’t anticipate so you need a stock response like, “That’s a good question. In order to answer it fully, I’d need to consider it more carefully and get back to you,” (don’t say this unless you intend to). Or you can simply respond, “I don’t have the answer right now, but it is certainly something I have to consider.”
Otherwise in these situations, you may say, “um, ah…” and undermine your credibility and confidence.
2. Those you don’t want to answer.
There are times when you know the answer, but can’t share it with the audience. For example, the pricing that will not be revealed until the product is released, or the name of a new strategic partner that is confidential until the final contract is signed. For these situations, prepare a response that acknowledges the question and lets them know when the information will be available in the future.
Otherwise, in these situations, you will sound evasive and insincere.
Preparing for questions thoroughly will give you confidence, show your respect for the audience and demonstrate your knowledge of the topic.
Gilda Bonanno is a speaker, trainer and coach who helps people from all walks of life improve their communication and presentation skills.
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