You have just delivered an outstanding presentation, sales call or meeting, but now come the dreaded questions and answers. For most, the nerve-racking part of any presentation is the unscripted part. What if someone asks you a question you cannot answer? What if a listener turns hostile? What if someone monopolizes the room? What if you just don't know the answer?
How you handle the Q&A portion of a presentation can make or break your established credibility. If dealt with the wrong way, you lose the impact of the message shared. Your content and behavior are critical at this moment.
First, recognize the value of the questions asked. One study by the National Statistics Council found the average working professional spends 37 percent of his or her time in meetings. Meeting overload tempts anyone to become distracted and tune out during a presentation. When audience members ask questions, it means they are engaged and intrigued by your topic.
Answering a question provides an opportunity for you to bond with those asking, even if the question is challenging. Questions allow you to clarify misunderstandings and set the record straight. Your objective is to be personable and relatable in order to defuse any disagreements or contempt.
Don't take difficult questions personally. A hefty 92 percent of meeting attendees acknowledge that questions give them the chance to contribute to the overall discussion. This is important to remember when someone challenges your position, facts or suggestions. It provides you with an extra opportunity to provide more supporting evidence. Correctly handling questions will prevent others from joining in on the attack.
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Start with the "3A method": Acknowledge, Answer and Add value. It's a great formula for dealing with dreadfully tough questions.
Acknowledging a question takes seconds to do yet helps the questioner respond positively to your answer. Acknowledgment lets your questioner know that you are open to their concerns and are willing to listen to what they have to say. It's typical for people to become defensive when asked a challenging question, which negates the value of the question and the person asking it. When you acknowledge appropriately, you defuse emotions and create an open dialogue.
Example question: "How can we possibly afford the time and money it will take to train our management staff on this new concept?"
Example answer: "I appreciate your concern with cost, especially since the company has been cutting costs for the past quarter."
Avoid the cookie-cutter response of saying, "That's a really good question." It offers no value and appears as though you're buying time. Your goal is to listen carefully enough to find a point you can acknowledge. Often, the person asking just wants to be heard.
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Keep your response brief, clear and specific to the question asked. Provide evidence with facts or examples to support your answer.
Sometimes we are asked questions for which we don't know the answer. In this case, it's better to be honest than to bluff. Bluffing is sure to cost you credibility and make you look less than trustworthy. You don't want to risk your reputation and presentation because you don't know an answer. Acknowledge that you don't know the answer and then commit to getting back to the questioner later.
If you don't understand a question well enough to provide an adequate answer, request clarification. Acknowledge the question and ask the speaker to clarify. Listen intently and, before answering, respond by acknowledging what you heard to ensure you understand.
3. Add value.
Connect the benefits of your answer to the listener. Your goal is to continue reminding your listener of the value of your response and the benefits for them.
Example: "I appreciate your concern with cost, especially since the company has been cutting costs for the past quarter. First, our solution will save you time and money by training your management staff for you. We have worked with multiple industries like yours with proven immediate results. As a result, your management staff will learn practical methods to increase productivity and build relationships. Past clients have earned a return on their investment in as little as two months following the training date."
The Q&A portion of a presentation doesn't have to be a total surprise. When you practice your presentation, consider some of the possible questions that attendees may ask. Play devil's advocate and contemplate your answers. Consider the audience in attendance and the benefits your presentation provides them. This will help you remember key points for adding value when the need arises.
Questions are inevitable in presentations and a great sign of audience engagement. Celebrate them for what they are and prepare yourself for every possible scenario. This will ensure that your reputation and credibility remain strong.
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This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com. Minor edits have been done by the Entrepreneur.com.ph editors.