3 tips to handle a Q+A session effectively

Do you or your sales team give great presentations but fall at the Q+A session?

Many years ago, when I was consulting for a major telecoms company, I was asked to sit in on a sales pitch being delivered by a global vendor of computer software.  It was a household name back then and still is now.  I mean, this was a BIG multinational.  The 2 sales people arrived late, yes late!

However, they delivered a very professional company presentation.  They had beautiful slides and it was obvious that they were well rehearsed and well prepared.

Well prepared … until it came to the questions and answers session.

Within less than 1 minute it became embarrassingly apparent to everyone in the room that they only knew the content on the slides!  It was embarrassing for them and to be honest, for all of us in that room.  They left shortly afterwards with their beautiful slides and their tails between their legs.

Nobody wants that to happen to them or their sales teams.  It is not surprising that people often have fears around the questions and answers session of a presentation.  After all, the questions are largely an unknown entity.  But, that does not mean that you cannot prepare and prepare properly.

Below are our top 3 tips to help you do this.


Tip 1: Preparation

In general, there are 3 types of questions (FAQs, ADQs and NAQs) which all need to be prepared for equally – we go more in-depth into each of these types and how to prepare for them in our earlier blog post.  For now – suffice to know that FAQs are, as you probably know, the Frequently Asked Questions.  The ADQs are the Absolutely Dreaded Questions.  Finally, the NAQs are the No Answer to that Question.

With the NAQs – you need to practise how you will respond.  In the safety of your own office, practice answering it, by saying “I do not know the answer” – in a confident tone.  Then, if it happens in a presentation, you have already said the words and they tumble off your tongue more coherently than if you are saying them for the first time in front of a “live” audience.  Again, our earlier blog post gives some really handy techniques for dealing with questions you cannot answer.

Challenge yourself to find questions for each of the 3 categories.

Show your presentation to your work colleagues and get them to ask difficult questions.  You could also consider showing it to those outside your work sphere to see if they come up with questions that perhaps you might not have thought of.

Once you have your answers fully prepared, practice saying them out loud.  Record yourself on your phone so you can hear how effective your answers sound.  If you think your answers sound long-winded, they probably are!  Practice answering them again more concisely.

Which leads us on to our next tip…


Tip 2: Answering questions

Throughout your presentation you have created a connection with the audience, do not let this fall to the wayside when it comes to the Q+A session.  Answer questions honestly, professionally and remember to smile!

Be aware of your vocal tone – keep it natural, friendly and warm. This will help you sound more relaxed and confident.

Have you ever noticed that sometimes in the questions and answers session some of the room can become disengaged?  This is because the speaker has engaged almost in a one-to-one with the one or 2 people asking questions.

A way to avoid this happening is to answer everyone in the room – not just the person who asked the question.  For the start of your answer zoom in on the person who asked the question.  Then, after a few moments, zoom out and include everyone.  Remember, someone else might have been just about to ask the same question, why should they potentially feel excluded?

Create a slide showing your contact details which you can show during the Q+A session.  When you are asked a question that needs more research, ask the audience member to contact you so you can answer them later.

This contact slide also comes in handy if the Q+A session overruns, let the audience know they can contact you with their questions at a later date.

At the end of the day, remember, you are human not a robot and it is okay to not know the answer to everything!


Tip 3: Finishing

People often finish their presentation with their last response in the Q+A session.  However, ending abruptly after this session means that you are ending with words that have not been chosen by yourself.  So, when the Q+A is over, take control and briefly reinforce your message with a focus on how you can help your audience.

This will be the last thing the audience hears in your presentation so take the opportunity to leave a lasting, positive impression.

If you feel you and your team could do with help when it comes to giving presentations, please get in touch and ask about our in-company masterclasses.