One of the most common questions I receive is, “How do I deal with Q&A?” We’ve established that when it comes to presentations, practice makes perfect, but how does one practice for the unknown? Although you can never fully anticipate what will happen during the Q&A session (or for that matter, the main part) of your presentation or class, there are a few things that you can do to make Q&A go more smoothly:
- Anticipate questions: After developing and rehearsing your presentation, dedicate some time to imagine what questions your audience is likely to ask and how you would answer them. If you are a follower of Presentation Zen, this is an excellent opportunity to flex your “empathy” muscles.
- Play devil’s advocate: This especially holds true if you are presenting an argument or strong opinion. What would your toughest critics have to say about your presentation? How would you respond to them? Beat them to the punch so you aren’t surprised when it’s showtime. If you are having difficulty imagining the other side of your argument, Internet forums are an excellent way to get some ideas.
- Truly know your material: This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s worth repeating. The more comfortable you are with your material, the easier the Q&A session will be. Better yet, if you can infuse your passion into your presentation, the Q&A session might become the most enjoyable part of your presentation!
Hopefully these tips will take some of the anxiety out of your next presentation or class. Of course, no matter how much you prepare, unexpected questions and comments will come up. Next time, I’ll share some thoughts on what you can do when that happens.