As if presenting isn’t nerve-wracking enough, the traditional Q&A session that follows can be even more stressful. Because you don’t know what will be asked, it’s difficult to anticipate questions (and come up with articulate, smart responses). In other words, so much of the session is out of your control. Despite this, there is a way to spin Q&As into an opportunity, according to a QZ.com article by Tim Calkins. “Instead of dreading questions, I think presenters should look at them as an opportunity to shine,” he writes. “If you manage questions well, you will pass the test and your recommendation (and you) will come across as smart.”
He shares some advice for managing these sessions. The simplest thing one can do is to always anticipate questions. Don’t ever plan a presentation without considering that the audience will likely have at least one question. Go over your entire presentation and be thoughtful about what the audience might question. Even if you feel you’ve covered every angle, be picky. You never know what might confuse or excite an audience member.
When you are faced with a tough question post-presentation, maintain your confidence. Even if you don’t have an immediate response, don’t shrink away. Look the inquirer in the eye, thoughtfully consider the question, and give your best answer. Despite your worries, you’ll most likely be able to answer most questions with ease. And, when you can, draw on facts to support your answers. It’s impossible to remember every single fact about a topic, but you will inevitably retain some. See if you can apply any of them to your answer, which will boost its impact and your credibility.
Questions about your presentation shouldn’t be something to fear. As Calkin’s article shows, questions can be a great way to build rapport with audiences and solidify your expertise. “If you think strategically about questions, each one becomes a chance to shine, a chance to build credibility, and a chance to build your brand and sell your recommendation,” he writes. So, don’t let your fears about a potential Q&A keep you from feeling confident about your presentation and your role as the presenter. With Calkin’s tips in mind, you can head into your next speaker role with confidence.