The ability to give a dynamic, memorable presentation is an essential skill for professional advancement. While honing your message and learning to deliver it with confidence and clarity is crucial for a successful presentation, there is another part of the presentation that people often fail to prepare for: the Q&A session. Answering the audience’s questions is an opportunity to reinforce your message and connect with your audience on a more intimate level. Since this will be the final impression you leave with your audience, it’s important to make sure your Q&A session is just as engaging and professional as your presentation itself. Take a look at our five tips to make sure you end your presentation on the right note!
- After an audience member asks a question, restate it before answering. This serves several purposes. First, it helps clarify the question for the rest of the audience if the speaker couldn’t be heard. It also ensures that you properly understood what was being asked before responding. And finally, it gives you a moment to gather your thoughts and formulate your answer.
- Make sure that you allot enough time for the Q&A when scheduling your presentation, and let the audience know in advance that you will be taking questions at the end of the presentation. This way your audience knows not to jump in with questions during the presentation and can make mental notes about questions they’d like to ask as you go along.
- Be prepared. Think about some of the likely questions/comments you’ll receive in advance and plan your general response. If appropriate, make a few slides that could be useful in case certain issues come up, and have them ready to go at the end of your presentation after your final slide.
- When a person is asking a question, make direct eye contact with them—they’ll feel as though they’re getting your full attention, and you’ll be more likely to fully understand what they’re asking. When responding, shift your focus and make eye contact with the general audience to pull everyone else in so it doesn’t feel like you’re having a private one-on-one exchange.
- If a person asks a question that is off-topic, antagonistic, or goes on for several turns, feel free to defer by saying something like, “That’s an excellent point, and I’d love to discuss it more with you off-line after the presentation.” If possible, try to schedule time in so that you can stick around for a little bit after the presentation to handle these types of questions, have more in-depth conversations, or field questions from audience members who were too shy to speak up in front of a crowd.
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