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Have a Planned Question for Your Silent Q&A

 

By Bob Goodyear

Have you ever asked, “Do you have any questions” during your presentation and received no response from the audience? How did that feel? How long did you wait before moving on?

As a technical presenter, it is expected to have a Q&A period during your presentation. However, having no one raise their hand to ask a question is one of the most uncomfortable feelings I’ve ever experienced in my years of presenting. I tried all kinds of methods to handle this. I would many times laugh it off with a comment like, “I guess I did a great job of explaining everything to all of you” or “I must have confused you all so much that you can’t even figure out a question to ask.” I’ve even prodded the audience by saying something like, “Surely you must have some questions.” Those lines made me feel better but I could tell that my audience didn’t find them very amusing.

This also happened at the most inopportune time, which was at the end of my presentations. Something had to change. I turned to a seasoned presentation coach to get some answers. He gave me 3 pieces of advice.

Move the Q&A

The first thing he taught me to do was to move my Q&A up in my presentation and not at the end. I’ve written about how and where to move the Q&A before in a previous blog post.

Change your Q&A opening

His second suggestion was to change how I opened the Q&A. Instead of simply asking, “Do you have any questions,” he suggested opening with a statement like, “Before I close, what questions do you have about what we have talked about?” His point was that this sets the expectation for you to have the last words. It lessens the burden on the audience to manufacture a question just so the presentation won’t end with silence.

How to handle the silence

The third piece of advice he gave me is what transformed my silent Q&A sessions. He told me that while I might think that silence means the audience doesn’t care, it might mean that they may not know where to begin with questions. His suggestion was for me to have a planned question that I can give to the audience and then answer it. It would go something like this: “Let me share with you one common question that I’ve had before…,” or “Several times I’ve been asked about…”

I make sure before I start my presentation that I have a question or two in mind that I can use in case of silence. When I’ve used this technique, I’ve found that answering my own question has prompted the audience to ask questions. Some of my liveliest Q&A sessions have started out this way.

While it might sound weird, answering your own planned question in the beginning of your Q&A is quite helpful. You might even start all your Q&As by answering your planned question and then opening it up to the audience. Play with this technique to increase your Q&A effectiveness.

 

Bob Goodyear is a veteran speaker on technology who understands the communications challenges that technical professionals face. Find out how Bob can help your organization with its presentation. Reach Bob by email or by phone at 404.790.5855.

Photo by davide ragusa on Unsplash

 

 

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