When you open Q&A – never use this question
‘Does anyone have any questions?’
Near the end of a one of your prior presentations, I would bet – at least once – you have used this question to open a Q&A session.
And most likely you received a mediocre response to the question.
Here’s the first take-away message for you.
BAN all Yes/No questions when you open Q&A
including ‘Does anyone have any questions?’
My field research over the last 15+ years reveals that using a Yes/No question discourages audience members from asking questions.
One memorable example of this was when I was in the audience and there was person near me who was obviously eager to ask the presenter a question. When the presenter said ‘Does anyone have any questions?’ the person immediately became uninterested in asking the question, and never did ask it.
Rather than asking a Yes/No question – and this is the second take-away message – use a Non, Yes/No question or use a statement, that clearly signals to the audience that it’s time for them to question you.
Non Yes/No questions and statements include:
‘What questions do you have that I can answer?’
‘I’m happy to answer your questions now’
‘I’d love to hear your questions. Who would like to ask the first one?’
‘Now it’s time for Q&A. What’s on your mind that I can answer?’ (this is my usual Q&A opener).
Here are other tips for handling Q&A:
(1) At Q&A time, move closer to the audience, radiate warm and acceptance and calm enthusiasm through your facial expression and gesture with open arms toward the audience. In effect, convey that you are keen to hear and respond to questions.
(2) To overcome the reluctance audience members often have at being the first question asker:
- Pose a question to yourself that wasn’t covered in the presentation and answer it. For example, ‘One question you might be asking yourself is why it’s important not to rush when you speak?’
- Plant a question with a friend who is in the audience. Simply write the question on a post-it note, for example, ‘Why is it important not to rush when you speak?’. Give the note to your friend and tell them to readily ask the question when you open the Q&A session. Doing this will encourage other audience members to ask questions.
(3) Choose from the following phrases when initially responding to certain questions and statements:
- ‘A number of thoughts come to mind in response to that question. Let me choose one . . . ‘
- ‘I hadn’t thought about that, but I need to’.
- Nothing definitive comes to mind … let me answer other questions and see if a response bubbles up before the end of Q&A.’
- Offer the floor to someone in room (who you know would be keen to offer a view) before you respond. For example, Before I respond I know Max has a view on this topic . . Max please share your thoughts.’
- ‘I don’t agree with the premise of your question.’
- Respond to an audience member’s statement, with a question. For example, if the person say, ‘I don’t think x is the right approach’, you could respond, ‘ Thanks for that feedback. What do you think is the right approach?’
An important point to keep in mind for Q&A is, ‘He or she who loses their cool, loses.’
Own the Conversation
What to do now:
- Develop your Non, Yes/No question to open Q&A and trial it in safe presentations.
- Reflect on the results of doing this action.