Lots of people spend time working on their preparation for their presentations. But for many, we spend considerably less time preparing for what follows the presentation… the Q&A. And in fact, one of the questions we hear most often in our coaching sessions is this: Can you help me sound more confident, when I am NOT working off my notes or script? Giving a good presentation can be hard for many people. But handling Q&A effectively can also be a challenge.
And at the heart of a good Q&A performance is a simple concept: preparation, just like with a good presentation performance. But the fact of the matter is, with any Q&A session, one never knows exactly what “Q’s” will come up. So the preparation is harder. We have to make more assumptions in our preparation. We have to try to predict what questions we will need to be ready for. That’s usually not very easy.
So, here are five steps you can take to be better prepared for those “unscripted” moments:
1) Anticipate the questions that might arise. As you are preparing your presentation, you can be simultaneously be preparing for your Q&A. You may not be able to predict the exact question(s) people will ask, but before your meeting, give some thought to those topics that others might question. It will be easier to speak to those questions if you have some idea that they might be coming. You won’t get it correct 100% of the time. But if your audience prep is strong, you should be able to anticipate at least some of the questions. And everything is easier when you do.
2) Once the Q&A begins, and if an unanticipated question comes, don’t panic. Validate the question, don’t convey the fact that you had no idea that it might come up. If we can tell a person, Hey, that’s a good question. I’m glad you asked, then we immediately put ourselves in a mindset that won’t seem defensive and will sound more confident. When we meet someone on their ground, defensiveness is automatically diminished. And if you really don’t know the answer, don’t be afraid to say so. I want to think about that a bit, let me get back to you. If you rely on that technique once in a while, that’s totally fine. If you rely on that technique a lot, you may have a different problem, of being unprepared.
3) Focus on logic, not emotion, in your answers. It’s easy to become (or appear) less confident on a topic if emotion leads the way in the discussion. Instead, focus on the logic you used when the decision was made or the work was done. Present the facts, the reasoning, and the logic, and leave the emotion out, and you’ll sound more confident every time.
4) If they don’t like your answer, and you still feel confident that you are giving good information, then agree to disagree. It’s OK if everyone doesn’t agree with you. In a strong organization, it’s not only inevitable, it should be welcomed. Disagreement will happen, and we’ll appear more confident if we acknowledge those disagreements, and not try so hard to sway every member of the organization to our side.
5) Remind yourself that you know a lot… perhaps more than anyone else in the room. It may sound simple, but it’s important to remind yourself that you put a lot of thought into the work you did, you looked at all sides, and you can be confident that your work was valid, even if it was not perfect.
If you adequately prepare for the “scripted” portion of your meeting or presentation, you can then use these steps to help with the “unscripted” portion. Guaranteed, you’ll then sound more confident when questions arise.
Does your team:
– Take too long to make decision?
– Fail to ask for what it wants or needs from you?
– Make things too complicated?
– Deliver unconvincing or disorganized presentations?
– Have new hires who are unprepared to communicate in the workplace?
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