Questions and Answers
The question period (a.k.a., the “Q&A Session”) is often a challenging aspect of a presentation because the speaker is in less control of the situation. Think of yourself as the leader of the Q&A or discussion, not simply as someone who is only responding to questions.
Preparing for the Q&A
- Ask: “What does my audience most need from me today?” Think ahead about people’s motivations for attending, and reflect on areas where there may be gaps in meeting their expectations.
- Anticipate questions and prepare answers (eg around substantive issues or interpretations), or re-work the content to eliminate the need for the question (eg around details).
- During your opening comments or at another appropriate time, direct the audience to consider a particular area or issue, and open the Q&A with that issue. Eg. “During the question period at the end, I am eager to hear how X aspect of my work may have application to your research”.
Responding to Questions
- Prepare answers to likely questions, in advance.
- Instruct audience as to when to ask questions (during? at the end?).
- Open the Q&A using an open question format (Who has the first question? or What topic should we begin discussing?) rather than a “yes/no” question (Are there any questions?) Refer to the issue you posed as a discussion point during your opening comments if the audience is slow to participate.
- Listen carefully to the entire question.
- Repeat the question aloud to clarify the question and enable the audience to hear it.
- Stop and think about your response. Silence also enables the audience to think about the question or form their possible response.
- Answer briefly and coherently.
- It is acceptable to say “I don’t know,” and in some situations it is expected that the audience will push you to determine your level of understanding. Consider offering to find out what you don’t know, and respond later.
- Invite the audience to discuss difficult, controversial or interesting questions.
- Sum up the significant aspects of your talk and ideas generated through Q&A, to re-establish control of the session. Offer thanks to your audience for their participation.
The best speakers evaluate their own performance
A simple and quick self- assessment can be made, such as:
- three things that went well, and do again
- two things I want to learn more about re. presentations
- one thing I will STOP now
Compare your own performance to others you respect, or watch your favorite politician on YouTube and analyze her presentation style.
Check out the local public speaking educational organization on campus, or in the city, to learn more about public speaking and take advantage of resources and opportunities to practice if you wish.
When you’re next at a conference or lecture in your field, take notes on how they chose to organize the talk, what stories they told, if they used visuals or any other presentation aids – essentially use that presentation feedback handout from this document!
Presentation Skills Checklist
Speaker: ________________________ Evaluator: _______________________
Put a CHECK everywhere you agree with the statement.
|o The speaker greeted the audience warmly.||o The opening got my attention.|
|o I could hear the speaker.||o The introduction told me what to expect from the presentation.|
|o I could understand the speaker.||o The purpose of the talk was clear.|
|o The talk was delivered with warmth and feeling.||o The talk was designed in a logical way from beginning to middle and end.|
|o The talk was delivered with personal conviction from both the speaker’s mind and heart.||o The presentation was well-suited to the audience.|
|o The presentation seemed practiced.||o The content was interesting to me.|
|o The presenter involved the audience.||o The speaker summarized the main points before finishing.|
|o The speaker handled questions and comments with calm courtesy.||o The speaker let us know when the talk was over.|
|o The talk contained effective examples and illustrations.||o The talk ended on a strong final line or idea.|
|o The presenter defined technical terms and statistics for us.||o The presenter ended on time.|
|BODY LANGUAGE||VISUAL AIDS|
|o The speaker stood during the presentation.||o The speaker used visual aids.|
|o The speaker had good eye contact with the audience.||o I could read the material from where I was sitting.|
|o The speaker showed no distracting movements or gestures.||o The visual aids got the point across in a clear and simple way.|
|o The speaker smiled.||o The speaker did not block the screen or flipchart.|
|o The speaker used his/her hands to help communicate ideas visually.||o The speaker talked to the audience rather than to the screen or flipchart.|
|o The speaker tried to use verbal focusing techniques.||o The visual aids used key words rather than sentences.|