Strategies for the Q&A Session
What worries you most about the Q&A session?
Before your talk, are you clear about your knowledge or information boundaries?
The Question & Answer period (which is almost always impromptu) can add to your anxiety because not everything is in your control, e.g. hostile audience, a question you can't answer immediately, or not feeling "smart" enough.
Responding to Questions
- Say "What are your questions?" instead of "Are there any questions?" The former prompts discussion rather than offering an opportunity not to ask questions.
- Listen carefully and thank the person.
- Collect your thoughts before you answer: you might buy yourself time by paraphrasing or restating the question.
- Be brief, direct and concise. Answers that last 10 to 40 seconds work best. If they are too short, they seem abrupt; while longer answers appear too elaborate.
- Be concrete and specific. Keep on track. Do not let off-the-wall questions sidetrack you into areas that are not relevant to the presentation.
- Admit when you don't know the answer. You are expected to know the information boundaries for the presentation not everything. If you don't know an answer, say so and then offer to find the answer: "I'm sorry but this was not part of my research, but I'd be happy to look for...and get back to you." Never try to make up an answer; the audience will be onto you in a flash.
Responding to Difficult Questions
- Be firm and polite
- Fight fire with ice water: if you sense that the questioner is hostile, stay cool. Thank the person for his/her question and reply with a calm and collected tone of voice.
- Move on quickly to the next question
- Save the last word for yourself, e.g. summarize the main themes arising from the questions, highlight new areas of interest, etc.
FOR English Second Language Speakers...
- Rehearse more than 3-5 times
- Memorize your introduction
- Structure your visuals so that the images convey most of the story to the audience
- Remember that 93% of communication is non-verbal
Irrespective of your language proficiency, do not read your presentation.