Seldom do I recommend doing question and answer session at the end of your speech. More often than not, members of your audience will use this time to showboat their own businesses, take up too much time of your speaking time or pose questions that put you on the spot. Any one of these scenarios can sabotage your entire presentation. However, there are exceptions to this rule. Sometimes you’re topic begs for a Q&A session. When this happens it’s important to know how to properly handle your audience and stay in your power.
Many speakers dread a Q&A because they’re afraid they’ll be asked a question they don’t know how to answer. Below are seven cool ways you can reply to those dreaded questions.
1 – Take your time.
Stop and think before you respond. You don’t have to fill it up the silence with “uhh, umm”— just stop and give yourself the space to collect your thoughts so you can answer the question properly.
If it’s a really difficult question, say something like, “Give me a minute to collect my thoughts and I’ll have the answer.” It’s okay; you’re in a power position as the speaker. Take as long as you need.
The answer may be in your notes. If so, take a moment and look at your notes or other speaking materials.
3 – Defer the question.
There are two ways to do this. You can say, “That’s a great question. Does anyone in the room want to answer that?” That works really well if you think that your audience will know the answer.
If you have some colleagues around, you might defer to them. If you’re going to defer to your colleague, say, “since your specialty is in real estate and mine is in loans, would you mind if I defer this question to you?” Or if there’s a statistic or number you need, ask your colleague, “Do we have numbers or information on that?”
4 – Offer to find the answer.
You may want to say, “That’s a great question. Let me find out the answer for you.” Stay in your power even if you don’t know the answer. Don’t lie, or guess the answer. Someone in your audience may catch you in the act or see it on your face.
Remember, as a speaker you’re under a magnifying glass—where you look, your smile, your attitude. Always tell the truth and be real. Just admit, “I’ve never heard of that before. I’ll find the answer for you,” or “I’ll get back to you at the next break.”
5 – Suggest where to get the answer.
If you’re speaking to a large group or it’s unlikely that you’ll have any further contact with them, then tell them to look on the internet or in a certain book; or refer them to a certain person or website.
Don’t do this if you’re expecting to get clients from your talk. Be sincere when you say. “I don’t have the answer right now but if I were you, I would look at this website or Google these certain words…” Be helpful!
6 – See me later.
If questions are of a personal nature it may take too long to answer from the stage. Instead, say, “See me when we’re through and I’ll help you with that.” You never said you didn’t know the answer and you didn’t brush them off.
I use this technique and avoid Q&A altogether. Instead of saying, “Are there any questions?” I say, “I’m sure you have lots of questions and I want to answer them. Come and see me at the end of the meeting.” That way I get only the interested clients—the hot leads.
7 – I don’t know.
Sometimes admitting you don’t know can be the most important step to building rapport and credibility with your audience. Just be honest.
I prefer to say, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out” or “I don’t know, but does anyone else in the audience know?” The key is to be honest. Don’t make up an answer and try to bluff your way through it. You’ll lose credibility.
Now you have 7 cool things to do during your Q&A session. All these strategies will help you handle questions with confidence. If you use and practice these techniques, it’ll eliminate any anxiety you might have about asking the question, “Are there any questions?”