The Q&A session is a unique opportunity to: entrench your professionalism; showcase your expertise; and re-entrench the key principles within your talk. Below are Q&A scenarios with advice on handling it.
Scenario 1: How should you deal with a “silly” question versus a “stupid” question?
A silly question has to deal with your content. It’s usually asked by someone who was not paying attention.
Your response: Get the audience to help you, say, “Is there anyone who can answer this question?” Someone usually does and they tell the person what cannot say on a stage, which sounds like: “We covered that a moment ago… and the answer is…the detail is within the notes!” With regard to the “stupid” question – there are none; encourage questions by stating, “there is no such thing as a stupid question”.
Scenario 2: You get asked a question that has nothing to do with your talk or your expertise.
If you are speaking on behalf of your company, and your talk is an indirect marketing campaign. Audience members can sometimes use this opportunity to complain about a product or service about your company that is unrelated to your content.
Your response: You are a brand ambassador for your firm. Your response to one person is being assessed by everyone else. Show empathy; apologize on behalf of your company / department. Gently remind them that their query is unrelated to your area, but you are willing to assist them after your talk once you have exchanged contact details.
Scenario 3: An audience member blatantly disagrees with your content.
Your response: Patiently analyse the points of disagreement; distinguish facts from opinion. Address each fact with a fact of your own; deal with each opinion by clarifying the facts its based upon, and then respond with your opinion based on your research of the topic.
Scenario 4: You planned 20 minutes to speak with 20 minutes audience discussion. At Q&A, no one asks a question.
Your response: For sensitive topics it is expected that people are hesitant to ask the first question for fear of being judged. Create a friendlier environment. Divide the audience into groups of 5 to 7 people and ask them to talk about your topic among themselves. Walk around to each group and listen to their concerns. Once you engaged with all groups, conduct a general summary to the bigger audience without indicating which group or person raised the concern. Say, “Thank you for the feedback, I have noted the following concerns and I would like to address each one now…”
- When choosing an audience member to be part of your stage demonstration, always choose a person with “calm” and not “excitable” energy.
- If it is close to the end of your Q&A session and someone asks a 3-part question – take all 3 questions but time-manage your response. Remind them of your limited time; provide high-level responses with an invitation to chat with you afterwards.
- Respond to hypothetical questions by clarifying the scenario presented; adding in any additional conditions or facts and then respond.