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Dave Hill,Professional Speaker, Trainer, Author, and Speech Coach - Re-Engineer Your Communication Strategies

Dave Hill, Professional Speaker, Trainer, Author, and Speech Coach – Re-Engineer Your Communication Strategies


  1. The value of a question-and-answer session is that you engage the audience. You can also build your credibility by answering questions well.
  2. Do not end with a question-and-answer session.  This can literally suck the energy out of your presentation, and it will likely end with “warm, polite applause.” By having your closing story and call-to-action at the end, you have a better chance of finishing your presentation with impact and energetic applause.
  3. Consider the amount of time you have for your presentation.  If it is relatively short (up to 60 minutes) and you need to make sure you cover all your information, you may want to consider having the Q&A session toward the end. When developing your presentation, think about at which sections you will solicit questions and the different methods you will use to entice audience members to ask them.
  4. Let the audience know up front when they can ask questions (anytime during the presentation, toward the end, afterward, etc.).
  5. Anticipate questions, write down what you think the questions might be and practice delivering concise, quality answers.  Do an audience analysis as you prepare for the event.  Find out what is concerning them, what frustrates them and what parts of the presentation could produce hostile questions.  Ask your friends and associates what questions they would potentially ask.
  6. Think about how the audience will be able to hear the questions.  It is frustrating if the audience cannot hear the question. Some people have quiet voices or may be too shy to project.  If you will be using a hand-held microphone, think about the coordination.  If possible, have a helper go around the room and hand the microphone to each questioner.  The helper should be instructed to turn the microphone on and let people know that it needs to be held close to the mouth.  Beware of feedback potential.  Practice to make sure this does not become a cringing, screeching moment that kills your Q&A session.
  7. You can also prompt the audience to write down questions and pass them toward the front where an assigned person will gather them. Writing questions on a piece of paper can also provide a means of getting timid audience members to ask questions.
  8. It can be beneficial to include your email address and other contact information on your handout or other piece of paper for people to send you questions later.
  9. When asking for questions, do not point your finger at the person you are choosing, as this is considered rude in many cultures. Point with your whole hand, with the palm facing upward.
  10. Before answering a question, listen to the entire question; don’t cut off the questioner.  Repeat the question back to the audience and pause before answering.  Answer clearly and concisely, without giving a new “speech.”  Pausing after you hear the question and repeating the question back to the audience gives you time to think about your response.  Take your time both with easy questions and difficult questions.  This can help provide adequate time to think through difficult questions without appearing “stumped.” When repeating back the questions, make eye contact with the questioner. Make eye contact with different audience members when answering the question. This helps maximize audience interaction rather than you having a one-on-one discussion with the questioner.
  11. Answer questions honestly.  Don’t try to bluff.
  12. If you do not have a good answer, ask the questioner to write it on a piece of paper or business card and give it to you after the meeting. You can then research the question.  Make sure you are dedicated to following up with your promise to respond.
  13. Do not deflect questions by pushing them toward another contact; don’t “pass the buck.” If at all possible, get questioners the information they need.
  14. If you do not have a good answer, ask the audience members if they can help out.
  15. If a question is more of a comment or an opinion that is rambling on, this might be one time you discreetly and as politely as possible “cut the person off” and simply state, “thank you for the comment.”
  16. To ensure that questions get asked at certain parts of your presentation, you may want to get the audience thinking about questions and say:
    • “The next part of my presentation is (controversial /complicated /intriguing). You may want to write your questions down on a piece of paper and I will answer them at the question-and-answer part toward the end of this section.  You can either forward your written questions to me at that time or my assistant will hand you the microphone.”
    • “I typically get a lot of audience questions from the following part of my presentation. Let me tell you a story to illuminate my point, and then I will answer any questions.”
  17. If someone is dominating the question-and-answer session, you could use a technique such as answering him while making eye contact with people in another section of the room.  When you have answered the question, walk to another part of the speaking area and say something like, ‘Let’s get a question from this side of the room.’ “
  18. Do not criticize your questioner or belittle him or her.  If you do, you may make the audience hostile or reluctant to ask any questions.
  19. Some questioners just like to ramble on.  One way to handle this is to firmly ask the person for clarification on what the question is.  Another way would be to say, “If I hear you right, your question is … ”
  20. Keep your composure if you get hostile questions or loaded questions designed to erode your credibility or to manipulate you.  Under certain circumstances, you may want to suggest, “Let’s discuss this one-on-one afterward so I can get more details and get you your answer.”  When a hostile question is being asked, do not nod your head (to indicate you are listening) because the audience may interpret that you are in agreement.
  21. When you have answered the question, watch the person’s body language and ask him, “Did that answer the question?”
  22. If you tell someone, “That’s an excellent question,” stay consistent.  If you do not say something similar for the next question, the person may be left with the feeling that her question was not important.  Make a list of possible responses that will make audience members feel important.
    • “I get asked that question a lot; it’s a great question.”
    • “Thank you for asking that question.”
    • “That’s the best question of the day.”
    • “That question alone was worth my being here today.”
    • “That question brings back great memories for me; let me answer it with a brief story.”
    • “That’s an excellent question. I would prefer to research it and get back to you with as detailed information as I can.  Can you write the question on the back of your business card, and I will get you an answer as quickly as possible.”
    • “That’s a great question, but a difficult one to answer. Let me answer it giving you my personal perspective.”
  23. If you do not get any volunteers when you ask, “Who would like to ask the first question?” use humor and ask, “OK, who would like to ask the second question?”
  24. If questions are few and far between or trailing off, say, “I have time for one more question.”
  25. If you think the audiences may be hesitant to ask questions, have acquaintances in the audience ask some pre-arranged questions.  Sometimes this is all that is needed to get the ball rolling.
  26. How do you handle questions that come from someone with a strong accent – an accent you cannot understand? 
    • You can say, “I hear you but I’m not sure just what you are asking.  Can you ask the question another way?”  That gives you two sets of data that you may be able to combine into an understanding of the question.
    • The other route is to get help from the audience.  You can ask them if they have a comment or answer/opinion on the question.  A little discussion from others may clarify the question.
    • And finally, you may simply say something like, “I’m sorry, but I just don’t understand what you are asking.  Can someone in the audience explain it to me, please?” This admits defeat but does not totally place the blame on the accent or on the person asking the question.