Handling Q&A

It’s common to address questions from your audience both during and after your presentation. For the communicator, this is an important opportunity to clarify points of confusion and refocus your message.

To learn how to handle Q&A like a pro, watch the following video lesson and then read the tips below.

Use the Communication Development Strategy

As always, you want to start by using the Communication Development Strategy.

Audience: What is their level of knowledge? What are their priorities or concerns?

Purpose: What is your goal in conducting this Q&A? Stay on message.

Structure: No matter what kind of question you are answering, use a simple structure to help you achieve concision. For example:

  • Pause to ensure you have heard and understand the question.
  • State your position clearly.
  • Support your position with evidence.
  • Stop by concluding succinctly and NOT over-answering.

Be Concise

When answering questions it is important to be concise for two reasons:

  1. Maintain the attention of the audience. They just listened to your presentation, and not everyone will be interested in every question. Be respectful of their time.
  2. Avoid trouble. You’ve spent hours, days, or even weeks planning for your presentation. But you can’t prepare for every question that might come your way. Don’t overcomplicate the issue. If a question requires more detail, you can always follow-up offline.

Anticipate the Types of Questions

Here are three common types of questions you will receive. Each type has a different strategy for responding.

Informational – Questions requesting clarity or more information about your topic.

  • Examples of informational questions: Can you say more about…? How are you going to do this?
  • How to Address: Answer succinctly and then stop.

Speculative – Questions asking you to speculate on the future or the thoughts/actions of others.

  • Examples of speculative questions: What do you think will happen if…? What does the opposition think? How will competitors react if we do this?
  • How to Address: Speculative questions can be risky. Before answering, ask yourself: is this question in scope, or out of scope? It is okay to speculate if the question is on an area of your expertise. But avoid speculating on people’s thoughts and motives or if you are not an expert.

Challenging – Questions expressing legitimate objections and concerns.

  • Examples of challenging questions: This proposal failed the last time we tried it. What makes you think it will work now? You’re assuming these interests rates 10 years from now? What if you’re wrong?
  • How to Address: Challenging questions are often negative – you should NOT match that negative or emotional energy. Instead, you should pause, stay calm, and listen for the real question. Respectfully acknowledge the speaker’s emotion or concern. Then answer the real question.