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6 Things to Watch Out for During Presentation Q&As

“By doubting we are led to question, by questioning we arrive at the truth,” said Peter Abelard. The French philosopher and theologian certainly knew what he was talking about.

At the end of any presentation comes the ever-present Q&A session. It’s never not present. You don’t just present and walk away. There will always be members of the audience who will ask for clarifications and/or just want to understand more.

And it’s your job to answer them. You’re already there onstage, presumably with a great visual aid you or an awesome PowerPoint design agency created, and you’re the one they’re addressing their questions to. Not to mention that your presentation made them think of these queries. If you don’t respond, apart from not getting the answers the audience wanted, it also makes you look unprofessional. Let’s set the difference though: purposefully not answering is not the same as not knowing the answer.

So what mistakes should you avoid during Q&As? Or at least keep in check? Here are some of them:

Presentation Matters: Question and answer

Silence

This can come from both sides: presenter and audience. It’s either they have no or no more questions or the presenter takes a long time to answer. Either way, silence can make the whole mood awkward.

If you’re having a mental block after the question is given, take a moment and pause. If you still don’t have an answer after a few seconds, you can always say, “Excuse me, but let me gather my thoughts for a few more seconds.” This honest move shows that you took the time to really think about your answer—which, in all fairness, you really did.

Tone of Voice

Be conscious of how you talk—not just how you pronounce your words but also how you say, in general, your speech. It’s not just about your intonation or where you place stresses and pauses (you know, for dramatic effect). It’s also how you make your message heard and felt.

The same goes for answering questions. If you come off too strong, the gesture may be seen as defensive; come off too weak and risk being thought of as a weak answerer. A friendly tone is the best tone to use and is also the most welcoming.

Presentation Matters: Long Answer

Long Answers

When faced with a long question, it doesn’t mean you need to respond with an answer of the same length; besides, long questions don’t warrant that. Instead, give your answer as straight and concise as you can.

You risk losing the attention of your audience the more you dwell on an answer—worse, you may even repeat points over and over again, putting into question your expertise on the subject. You’ve already got limited time as it is.

Fillers

Speaking of diminishing subject-matter expertise, “Um,” “Well,” “You know,” and “Uh” will not help establish that. Repeating these filler words over and over will only serve to annoy your audience and damage your credibility, not to mention that they will also eat time.

Granted, no one can speak fluently without practice, especially with impromptu answers, but the best you could do is lessen these fillers. It’s always a good idea to take a pause and gather your thoughts, then speak.

Presentation Matters: Composure

Composure

Keeping your cool is already a given, especially if you’re onstage. If you’re thrown off by awkward questions, dissenting opinions, or even hecklers, that’s going to reflect on your general demeanor. Don’t let these situations—and many more—faze you.

Keep calm, and stay polite throughout the entire session. Once you lose your composure and try to pick a fight with a member of your audience, especially with hecklers, your night will just be ruined… and that’s the best you end up with. Don’t bring more harm to your credibility.

Arguments

Closely linked to the last point, arguments, especially heated ones, will only end up wasting everybody’s time. It will also show that you’re defensive, combative, and hostile, three things (among others) you don’t want your audience thinking of you.

Instead, lead questions to the right track. If someone offers an opposing opinion, acknowledge the difference (because there’s really not much you can do after), and, if possible, offer a middle ground. Or just end with the acknowledgment and move on to the next question.

It’s not easy having a question and answer portion to end your presentation. Being a moderator comes with its own duties, responsibilities, and rules completely different from being a speaker. But once you get the hang of it, you’ll be acing both in no time.

Of course, preparation is a must. You’ve already prepared for the presentation; what’s stopping you from doing the same for the Q&A? You’re already the subject-matter expert, so it makes sense that you’re the one they’ll be asking questions from. Allay their fears and satisfy their curiosity. Answer them in the best way possible: your own.

 

Resources:

Decker, Ben. “Avoid These Don’ts During Presentation Q&A Sessions.” PresentationXpert. n.d. www.presentationxpert.com/avoid-these-donts-during-qa-sessions

Greene, Charles III. “Presentation Skills: 5 Tips to Improve Your Q&A.” CharlesGreene.com. August 27, 2012. www.charlesgreene.com/2012/08/5-tips-to-improve-your-qa-sessions

Holtzclaw, Eric. “9 Tips for Handling a Q&A Session.” Inc. February 5, 2013. www.inc.com/eric-v-holtzclaw/9-tips-for-handling-a-qa-session.html

Posey, Cheryl. “The Importance of Using the Correct Tone of Voice.” SpeakingYouBestOnline.com. April 18, 2012. www.speakingyourbestonline.com/blog/the-importance-of-using-the-correct-tone-of-voice

Watts, Rich. “The Complete Guide to Handling Q&A Sessions.” LinkedIn Pulse. June 13, 2014. www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140613151624-131038283-the-complete-guide-to-handling-q-a-sessions

Windingland, Diane. “13 Tips for Handling a Question and Answer Session.” VirtualSpeechCoach.com. May 2, 2012. www.virtualspeechcoach.com/2012/05/02/12-tips-for-handling-a-question-and-answer-session

“Top Tips on Handling a Question and Answer Session.” University of Bedfordshire. December 2009. www.beds.ac.uk/knowledgehub/events/toptips/questionandanswer

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How to Take Tough Questions Like a Presentation Expert

Q&A’s are the perfect opportunity for welcoming observations and clarifying people’s confusion about a certain idea. This opens the floor for deeper audience involvement, although a tough question could sneak through and ruin a stellar performance.

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Here are tips to handle your next Q&A session like a presentation expert:

Take Questions Only at the End

Take audience questions like feedback. They help tune up future presentations. However, taking queries during a structured speech distracts you, ruins your flow, and steers you off-track.

The main part of the speech is not the right time to field questions. If audience members attempt to sidetrack you while speaking, inform them politely that there will be time allotted at the end to address their concerns.

It’s important to avoid coming across as avoiding the question altogether. At the same time, you need to take control of your own presentation to deliver effectively and efficiently.

Don’t Lose Sight of Your Objectives

The Q&A session is a part of your presentation – and should still follow your goals. Set objectives to keep your overall speech concise and effective.

Avoid getting distracted or taken off topic. If you’re asked a question that might seem loosely connected, answer it in a way that always draws it back to your topic.

But never refuse questions, even those that seem difficult or out of your scope of research. Every question is an opportunity to make your message even clearer. In the face of an intimidating question, be honest with the audience, but say that you’ll get back to them once you’ve found the answer.

Keep Yourself Calm and Composed

Even if you’re legitimately taken aback by a hard question, never let it show. Letting your negative emotions show in the midst of a presentation makes you look unprepared and unprofessional, reducing your credibility.

People easily pick up on signs of nervousness such as stammering, fidgeting, shaking, and unnecessary vocal interjections (your uh’s um’s and er’s). Stage jitters can also get your adrenaline pumping, having the awkward side-effect of speeding up your speaking pace.

Taking a deep breath calms those nerves, and gives you a brief chance to quickly internalize and properly respond to the question. This short pause will make your answer more natural and articulate, as well as your speaking more relaxed and well-paced.

Conclusion

Answering questions is an important responsibility as a speaker. No matter how perfect your performance might have been, your listeners will always have additional questions. Address these questions in a way that makes you more effective and knowledgeable.

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Reference

“Responding to Questions Effectively.” University of Leicester. Accessed July 16, 2015. http://www2.le.ac.uk/offices/ld/resources/presentations/questions

Sales Presentation Skills: Stay Relevant to Pitch Ideas

The best speakers are at the top of their game because they stay relevant to their topics and audiences. They know who they’re talking to and what to say to keep listeners hooked.

This is why their slides are impactful, and why their body language and manner of speaking captivate and encourage audience participation.

In his article in Marketing Magazine, Interbrand’s Chuck Brymer notes leading brands in the world such as Coca-Cola, Apple, Starbucks, and BMW, which utilize the technique to staying relevant.

They reap profit because they maintain a deep understanding of their consumer base and keep up with what happens in their lives. They also make use of simple yet innovative ideas in their advertising. By keeping up with their customers, these brands always make messages that people can relate to.

Presenters can apply this principle to their sales presentation skills using three important tips:

1. Shared Beliefs Connect You to Your Audience Faster

One important factor in connecting effectively with other people is an exchange of shared beliefs. Make a mental list of the right words, tone, and emotional triggers to use so you can connect with others better.

Do your clients specialize in manufacturing and distributing sports goods? Use action-oriented content and designs, then incorporate the core message of either seizing the moment while you can or finding satisfaction in breaking your physical limits.

Are your clients a tech-oriented company? Maybe you can bank on a common objective of providing devices that make people’s work easier and more productive.

Regardless of the industry, you need to know your audience in order to adjust your sales presentation skills accordingly.

2. Connect With Them on an Emotional then Rational Level

Understanding the people you talk to gives them a sense of empathy. After making this connection around a similar set of experiences or ideals, rationalize it by citing concrete examples.

Look at Nike: their “Just Do It” tagline sells to everyone regardless of age, gender and occupation. This message connects with their intended customers since it reaches out to them on an emotional level.

3. Know the Right Questions to Ask

Involve your listeners in the discussion. Work with what you learn from the people you speak to so you can give a relevant presentation. Stay updated with information relevant to them and more importantly, it gives you information that you can translate to relevant PowerPoint content to use either now or in the future.

Renowned author, Jim Aitchison, cites the Kaminomoto hair restorer ad campaign’s discreet tone worked because the ad agency realized that their customers didn’t want to be reminded of their baldness.

They preferred an ad with a message that only they would understand. Their execution included random objects with hair growing out of them and a tagline that read “Be careful with the Kaminomoto”.

Conclusion

Your audiences are human just like you. Each person grows and learns new things while refining their purchasing standards (or investing in pitches in the presenter’s case).

To connect with them and convince them of your ideas, form an emotional connection to reach out and effectively sell your ideas.

 

References

Aitchison, J. (2004). Cutting Edge Advertising: How to Create the World’s Best Print For Brands in the 21st Century. Singapore: Prentice Hall.
A Presentation Expert’s Guide to Knowing the Audience.” SlideGenius, Inc. 2015. Accessed May 11, 2015.
Brymer, Chuck. “WHAT MAKES BRANDS GREAT?Marketing Magazine. Accessed May 11, 2015.
Just Do ItNike. Accessed May 11, 2015.

4 Crucial Skills for a Better Investment Presentation Q&A

Convincing clients to accept your proposal is a feat in itself because while you can establish its relevance and support it with facts, they’ll always have questions after you deliver your investment presentation:

How much will implementing your proposal cost? How long will it take? Who will be involved?

Don’t worry about the Q&A of your investment pitch. Idea presentation is also a form of marketing and advertising.

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Audience persuasion is this practice’s lifeblood. Knowing how to address these concerns is the final hurdle that every presenter must pass.

As this article addresses the final parts of your presentation process, allocate the information you need in your PowerPoint’s the index section.

Getting Started

Addressing the clients’ concerns show them that your proposal is superior to the competition.

Ensure that the idea was well-formulated to account for perceived inconsistencies.

Northwestern University’s marketing expert Philip Kotler (1972) shares four planning skills to reinforce ideas during the final stages of your investment presentation:

Planning the Product

Your product is your proposal. It’s the thing you want to pitch to your audience.

Do you want to introduce a new gadget in an expo? Are you pitching a stock investment plan? Are you presenting a recommendation from your earnings’ reports?

Define your product in such a way that clients know exactly what you’re offering them. This should be reflected in the way you package and present it.

Determining the Price

Cost is a big factor in whether your client will approve your proposal or not.

Audiences need to see how their budget (if they give you one) will be allocated, and how much they’ll profit. While they do have the spending power, they prefer cost-effective solutions that give the best value.

Getting past this particular point requires you to accurately identify what it would take for your clients to invest time and money in your idea.

Listing down your costs or presenting graphs to outline how you’ll spend their money presents a clear picture of how the expenses will play out.

Planning the Distribution

Once you’ve established the product and costs, how do you plan on making your product available?

After impressing your audience with your offering’s features and benefits, tell them where and how they can get it.

Will it be available in major tech shops? Can people only get it at the Apple Retail Store? Will it be exclusively available online?

Planning for this often ties in with the concerns of costs.

Promoting Interest

Keep your idea’s benefits in mind. Keep your audience interested by specifying exactly what they can get out of your proposal. Focus on powerful suggestions such as:

“This insurance plan will provide coverage against a wide variety of accidents, all for a fraction of the competition’s costs”
“This new processor will allow your phones to use more apps at the same time, increasing your productivity”.

Clients and their businesses are not only responsible for maximizing their profits, but also for maintaining a strong and lasting customer interest. The more well-defined your idea is, the more convinced clients will be.

Accurately defending a pitch is a crucial investment presentation skill.

When the client’s approval is on the line, your audience will appreciate a speaker who not only focuses on the style of presenting but also stands by his or her topic well enough to convince others to invest in it.

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References:

Kotler, P. (1972). A Generic Concept of Marketing. Journal of Marketing. Vol. 36, No. 2.
Using Common Values in PowerPoint Presentations.” SlideGenius, Inc. April 21, 2015. Accessed May 5, 2015.
The Question to Answer for Effective Business Presentations.” SlideGenius, Inc. May 25, 2015.

What to Watch Out for During Your Presentation’s Q&A

Preparation is crucial to any successful presentation. But even as you plan and rehearse as much as you can, there will come unscripted moments you never thought to prepare for. This is particularly true when the Q&A rolls in.

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Sure, you can prepare for questions that people will likely ask. But what about questions that come out of left field? How do you handle difficult questions or hostile comments? Morry Morgan of the School of Hard Knocks came up with a list of 5 different types of people you’ll encounter at a presentation Q&A. However, since these 5 types could end up overlapping in specific scenarios, we’ll list down the types of questions and comments that will leave you stumped instead.

To help you avoid a stressful Q&A, here are the types of difficult questions you’ll likely encounter:

1. The Backhanded Compliment

The Backhanded Compliment can be a question or a comment. On the surface, it might sound sincere and innocuous. But anyone who pays close attention will notice a certain edge to how it’s phrased. Most of the time, the backhanded compliment undermines all the effort you’ve put into preparing your presentation. While some constructive criticism can be helpful to broaden your discussion, these types of comments will always feel unwarranted and hostile.

How to Handle It: Your natural response is to be defensive. This will make you feel better, but it will only fuel the fire. The Backhanded Compliment will derail your Q&A into a fruitless argument. The best thing you can do is to ignore the hostility. You can say, “Thank you for your comments. I’ll keep them in mind for next time. Does anyone else have a question?”

2. The Non-Question Question

This type of question never seems to have a point. Either it repeats something you’ve already covered, or it states something particularly obvious. Based on Morgan’s list, the Non-Question is usually raised by people who are trying to show off in front of the crowd.

How to Handle It: As you should when faced with difficult questions in your Q&A, be polite and try not to lose your patience. Have the audience member elaborate their question further. You can say something like, “I’ve covered that point earlier. What do you specifically want to know about it?”

3. The Curve Ball Question

This question is raised to serve a single purpose: to leave you fumbling through your notes looking for the answer. It’s a question that catches you off guard because it was never part of the scope of your presentation.  Sometimes, it’s asked by people who are genuinely curious about something tangential to your discussion. But it can also come from those looking to see you mumble a thoughtless answer.

How to Handle It: When you’re suddenly faced with a Curve Ball during your Q&A, remind the audience of your scope and limitations. Tell them you only set out to answer specific aspects of a broader topic. Offer them an alternative channel where they can reach out to you after the presentation. You can say something along the lines of, “Given our limited time, I can’t cover every aspect of today’s topic. Email me your questions and I’ll try to address them more specifically.”

4. The Pop Quiz

The Pop Quiz isn’t just one question—it’s a series of very specific questions that will soon make you feel like you’re back in school again. They’re not necessarily hostile in nature. Most of the time, the Pop Quiz is addressed by someone very eager to hear what you have to say. In fact, the reason why they’re asking you so much is because your presentation caught their interest.

How to Handle It: To avoid feeling lost, prepare a notepad which you can use throughout the Q&A. When you’re faced with a Pop Quiz, take down the questions asked of you and repeat everyone before beginning to answer. “Thank you for your questions. Let me repeat each one and tell me if I got anything wrong.” This will give you more time to think about what you want to say.

5. The Close Up Question

Anyone asking this type of question has scrutinized every detail of your presentation. Morgan calls them “Critics”.  For some reason, they can remember every typo or mispronunciation you made. A Close Up isn’t so much a question, but a comment made to magnify your small mistakes.

How to Handle It: To avoid this scenario completely, check your slides and content before you have to face the audience. If there are errors you missed, own up to it. Thank the audience member for pointing it out and move on to the next question. Respond with something like, “Thank you for pointing out what I missed. You’ve been very observant and I appreciate that.” A quick answer should be enough.

6. The Long and Winding Question

As its name suggests, these queries take forever to be asked. Before you hear the actual question, it will recount points you’ve already made in your presentation.

How to Handle It: You’ll have limited time for Q&A, so try to interject as soon as you can. Politely interrupt and ask them to skip directly to their point. Wait for a slight pause and say something like, “I think I see where you’re getting at. What other details can I give you?”

The Q&A of any presentation can be quite challenging. Be prepared for whatever comes your way. With these tips, you can safely navigate through any difficult scenario.

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Featured Image: Mike Linksvayer via Flickr