I recently read a presentation suggestion on Twitter that I think missed the mark. This presentation expert stated speakers should never end their presentation with a question-and-answer (Q&A) session because the speaker could lose control of the audience and go over on time. Now, I agree with staying within you time allotment (and actually finishing early), but that is why you need proper presentation planning. I have a different suggestion for your question-and-answer session — multiple Q&A breaks!
Why I suggest having multiple Q&A sessions during your presentation.
If you’ve ever seen me present in person or on a webinar, you’ve probably seen me do this presentation tactic. I try to break up every one of my presentations into three segments and have three corresponding Q&A sessions.
I include multiple Q&A sessions to do multiple things:
- Gives the audience a chance to ask their question when it is more relevant. A big mistake I’ve seen presenters make is waiting until the end to answer questions. If an audience member has a question in the first few minutes of the presentation, that person is lost for the rest of the presentation because he/she is confused or struggling to remember the question. This aspect is the most important because it means you’re being audience-centric.
- At the end of the presentation, the speaker is in a different mindset on a different topic by then, so someone asking a question about the beginning of the presentation catches the presenter off guard.
- The break gives me a chance to grab some water and take a deep breath.
- That deep breath and short break allows me to reset my speed because I tend to talk fast.
- Regardless if you talk fast or slow, the break allows you to check your time and make adjustments to stay on track.
- The break also lets me shift my brain to my next point knowing the audience has a good foundation of information with what I just shared with them.
- Having multiple breaks also makes it easier for me to practice and rehearse my presentation because I don’t need to run through the entire presentation, just one section at a time.
When you employ my tactic of using multiple Q&A breaks, you’ll probably not get a question during the first break because the audience isn’t used to multiple periods to ask questions (even if you warn them). However, you’ll probably have a lot of great dialogue in your second Q&A break, which builds up momentum and excitement for your last section. Can you saw better audience engagement?
Why don’t I let my audiences ask questions whenever they want?
Simply put, to prevent chaos. Maybe it won’t be chaos if they randomly ask questions, but allowing your audience to ask questions whenever they want breaks your train of thought and many times your response to that question is, “I’ll answer that in just a minute on the next few slides.”
I’ve seen many strong presenters lose control of the presentation because of a frequent questioner and occasionally that can lead to commentary from other audience members, who then challenge your thought leadership or take away your perceived expertise as a speaker.
Time Management with Multiple Q&A Sessions
You need to still budget your time accordingly when you do multiple Q&A session and I suggest not taking more than three questions during any one of the breaks, except maybe five questions in your last session if time permits and the dialogue is good.
If time is running short, offer to talk to your audience individually immediately afterward, at another time of the conference (if applicable), or schedule a time to talk to them at a later time. If you’re doing a thought leadership presentation with the intent to generate leads for your business, this slight delay is an amazing way to talk to your potential clients, build that relationship, and be that go-to resource for them.
Now, I do agree with the presentation expert’s advice that Q&A shouldn’t be the last thing you should do, it should be the second to last thing. I like to have my second to the last slide be Q&A followed by a slide with my contact info, social media icons, and my book.
Now, do you have any questions for me?
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How Speak Simple Can Help You
Win more work, increasing your billing rate, and prospects coming to you are all results of being an excellent presenter. Erica Olson created Speak Simple to help technical professionals to become comfortable presenting and excel at each presentation, whether a bid presentation or an educational, content marketing presentation. Learn more about Speak Simple’s flagship program is SpeakU, a self-guided presentation training program.