However, there's no way you could possibly prepare a ready-made answer for every single question an audience member might ask, so below are some guidelines for maximizing Q&A preparation time. These should help you banish some of the public speaking fears related to Q&A...
Public Speaking Fears - Conquering Q&A
- Use the Bucket Method. This is a very neat trick I picked up after reading "The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs" by Carmine Gallo. Used by CEO's and politicians alike, this method entails placing anticipated questions used 'buckets' (separate categories).
If you're talking about a new building project you'll likely have a 'funding' bucket' and a 'deadline' bucket and many more. You then prepare a great answer for that bucket and for all questions relating to finance; you have a bucket answer to draw from. This way you don't have to prepare and memorize answers to a hundred potential questions, but end up preparing answers for categories of questions.
- Anticipate Questions. In line with the above, some questions are easy to anticipate. Let's say you're still talking about your company's new building project, in which case a question about "costs & financing" is sure to be asked. Prepare laser-like answers for these sure-to-come questions by anticipating the real obvious ones relating to your topic.
- Experience helps. Most public speakers recognize that 90% of the questions that audience members asked, are likely to be repeated by the next audience. So experience helps, in the sense that, if you're giving the same lecture or speech at different times and places, the second, third and fourth, Q&A session will probably be more predictable than the first.
A final note about Q&A: The international public speaking club Toastmasters, recommends a speaker never end with a Q&A session. Their reasoning makes sense, since Q&A is usually not the most exciting part of the delivery, and its better to end on a higher note, with more energy, by presenting a final (possibly exciting or climatic) part of your speech.
This can easily enough be done by interrupting yourself before the final section of your delivery, taking some audience questions, and then after that, announcing that you're going to conclude with a final point or illustration.
In Summary: Q&A doesn't have to conquer you. Instead you can conquer it and leave the stage with your reputation intact, by preparation, especially through using the bucket technique described above.
Before the big speech there are a myriad of different public speaking fears you may face. For many speakers, one of the toughest part of any public address, which then naturally causes most of the stress, is the Question & Answer sessions.
A Question & Answers session often makes part of a performance and, depending on your topic, will often be expected by a host.
Question & Answer (Q&A) simply means that after, or during your speech, you give the audience opportunity to ask questions about the material you've been talking about. They do this by raising their hands, upon which you select the questions.
This can be scary. It's one thing when communication is one-way. When you're standing on the platform as the 'expert' delivering from the recesses of your expert brain.
As the person behind the lectern, you automatically carry a sense of authority and respect with the audience and this will rarely go unquestioned (expect if you're speaking to a really tough crowd or there's a crazy heckler in the room).
But when Q&A time comes round, the role is reversed. Now the audience gets to test you on the stuff you've been talking about and will often come with unexpected questions that may leave you blindsided and in the spotlight without a face-saving answer.
Preparation is the best anti-dote for any form of public speaking, and with Q&A there's no exception. If you've done your homework, this part of the performance should go smoother.
You're Q&A will never be this bad
No matter how tough you think the crowd you're addressing will be, chances are high you will not have to face what Steve Jobs faced in this Q&A session to the right.
His response to the personal insult from the audience member is magical because it showcases two of the most effective ways to deal with criticism: (1) Keep your cool, (2) Refuse to get personal, (3) Refuse to retaliate.
A transcription of the man in the audience's words: "Mr. Jobs, youre a bright and influential man. Its sad and clear that after several counts youve discussed, you dont know what youre talking about. I would like for example for you to discuss in clear terms how Java in any of its incarnations addresses the ideas embodied in OpenDoc. And when youre finished with that, perhaps you could tell us what you personally have been doing for the last seven years."
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