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> How to Master Question-and-Answer Sessions

While waiting to speak after lunch at a client's conference,
I sat through numerous presentations delivered by their top
executives. One by one, they each ended their presentations
in exactly the same manner: "Do you have any questions?"
And each time the audience was dead silent. The presenters
then ended with "Well then, that's it."

Was it possible that the audience really didn't have any
questions? Very doubtful. Too many presentations fall flat
when it comes time for the Q&A and the audience still has
many unanswered questions, leading to misunderstandings
and worse. Here are six proven tips for conducting a
powerful Q&A session and ensuring clearer communication:

Tip #1. Make it safe.
Keep in mind that the number one fear of many people is
speaking before a group. When you ask for questions, you
are basically saying, "Who wants to be the next speaker?"
because all eyes will be on the person asking the question.
Consider starting your Q&A with a phrase such as "We've
covered a lot of new material today and I expect that
you have questions. No question is unimportant and
chances are that others have the same questions you do..."

Tip #2. Summarize what you've covered before your Q&A.
Especially in longer presentations, this will refresh listeners'
memories and prompt questions. Use a phrase like "Let me
summarize what we've covered and then we'll open it up
for questions..."

Tip #3. Plant a few questions.
One reason that so many Q&A sessions fall flat is that very
few people want to ask the first question. Arrive early and
ask a couple people to ask a specific question. When you
start your Q&A session, they'll be the first to raise their hands.
After they get things rolling, odds are that others in the group
will follow.

Tip #4. Ask your own questions.
If planting questions is not appropriate or in addition to that,
include a couple questions that you think the audience might
be thinking about. Use words like, "Here's a question you
may be wondering about..." Again, after you get things
rolling with this technique, odds are that others in the group
will follow.

Tip #5. Shared pairs.
Here's a technique that works wonders. Say this: "Everyone
turn to a person sitting next to you and make a list of at least
three questions that you'd like me to answer." Then ask each
partnership to share one of their questions. You'll be amazed
by the number of questions you get.

Tip #6. Don't wait till the end.
Often people are tired by the end of a presentation. Instead of
conducting your Q&A at the end, hold shorter Q&A sessions
a few times during the body of your presentation. People will
be more energetic and you'll know exactly what's on their minds
before you get to end of your time. If you use this method, be
certain to control the group so that you have time to complete
your presentation.

> Reprint Permission
Reprint permission granted in part or whole when the following credit appears: Reprinted with permission from Simply Speaking, Inc.®  1-888-773-2512 or 404-518-7777
© David Greenberg's Simply Speaking, Inc.® All rights reserved.

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