A poorly run Q&A session can leave an unfortunate impression on what would otherwise have been a great presentation. The audience will walk away from your presentation remembering what they have seen and heard last. Knowing this we can ensure that as seakers we have control of the last impression by having some closing remarks prepared. It’s a misconception that a Q&A session should be conducted at the very end of your presentation. Instead let the audience know that you will stop and take some questions before you conclude your speech.
Along the same lines you should also inform the audience how long you’ll be taking questions for – and stick to it! There is nothing worse than a presenter who exceeds their allocated time because they have lost control of their Q&A session. Most people have busy schedules and they’ll appreciate when you firmly (but politely) decline anymore questions. Instead offer to make yourself available afterwards for anybody who wants to discuss any questions with you.
When an audience member asks a question make sure you know if everyone in the room heard it. If they have a microphone then that will obviously not be a problem. However, even in smaller rooms, some people can have trouble hearing a question. But, rather than simply repeating the question re-phrase it. This will let everybody know the question while also providing you some valuable think time to frame your answer.
Finally, a major concern with Q&A sessions is to actually elicit some questions. Generally, if your pitched your presentation at the right level for the audience I find that this is less of a problem. But if you’re still concerned why not seed the audience with a few questions ahead of time. Sometimes people have questions but are too nervous to ask them, but once one or two questions have been asked they tend to get the confidence to ask their question.
A well run Q&A session can provide you valuable opportunities to guage reaction to your presentation and make you stand out and look extremely professional.