You know the feeling: Your heart races, your palms sweat, and your mind goes blank. The audience looks at you in anticipation.

No, I’m not talking about pre-presentation jitters–I’m talking about the Q & A session after! Audience questions can be unpredictable, and there’s no way to guarantee you’ll know the right answer every time. So how can you level up your Q & A session to make a stronger connection with your audience and further drive home your message? Here in this post, I’m sharing my five best tips for a confident, genuine Q & A session, no matter what the audience asks.

1. Keep an Eye on the Clock

Make sure you know how much time is available for Q & A after your presentation, and manage the audience’s expectations right from the start: “I have time for three questions!” This lets the audience know how long the Q & A session will last, and encourages those who are on the fence about asking a question to raise their hand.

2. Prime the Audience

Encourage the audience to engage with you (and avoid awkward silence!) by priming them to ask questions in the Q & A session introduction. Instead of asking, “Does anyone have a question?” restate it: “Who has the first question?” Bonus points for raising your hand as you ask.

If no one offers up a question, be prepared to offer up one yourself: “One of the questions I get asked frequently is [question], and to that I respond by saying [answer].” Asking the first question yourself opens the conversation and invites others to continue it.

3. Watch Your Body Language

As we present, our body language communicates to our audience. The same thing applies during Q & A.

  • What does having folded arms tell your audience during Q & A? It’s sending a closed-off, defensive message.
  • What about hands in your pockets? It’s saying, “I’m scared and I’m comforting myself.”
  • How about gripping the podium? This says, “I’m hanging on for dear life!”

As you’re fielding questions from the audience, make sure you continue to maintain an alert posture, and use your hands to emphasis your points.

4. Never Rate the Question, Restate it

Many presenters buy time to answer questions by using a rating statement such as, “That’s a great question,” or “Excellent question,” before responding. If you state that one question is “good” and don’t make the same comment on the next question, how is the second audience member going to feel? Instead of rating the question, restate the question. This shows that you are listening intently, and allows your audience to hear the question, before you begin to answer it. It also provides an opportunity to restate the question in a positive way if you get a snarky question.

Here’s a quick example:

Audience Member: “Why should we use your product, when we already have our own internal process?”

Presenter: “The question is regarding the value our product brings to clients that have an existing internal process.” 

5. Always Make Sure You Answered the Question

Once you’ve answered the question, verify that your response has satisfied the audience member before you move on. An easy way to do this is to ask, “Did that answer your question?” This shows concern for understanding and it helps you connect with the audience.

Q & A is a chance to have valuable dialogue with audience members, which benefits the greater audience. It also provides you valuable insight on how the audience feels about your topic, and if they are bought-in or not. Adopting these five tips will put you in the driver’s seat of your next Q & A session and help you confidently close-out your presentation, while creating a connection between your audience and your message.

Are you looking to polish your presentation skills? Check out our Persuasive Presentation Course to learn a proven process for developing and delivering a message that persuades your audience to action.

Hi, I’m Amy Hedin.

I founded HumanPoint in 2007 with the mission of empowering leaders and teams to reach their potential. Although my team and our offerings have expanded, my passion for coaching is as central to my work as it was 12 years ago. Here on our blog you’ll find the advice, expertise, and insight my team and I have gained from decades of work in the executive coaching and consulting field.