The Audience Has A Turn
“I have the answer. What was the question?” – Gertrude Stein
After years of critiquing speakers, including excellent and fearless ones, I realize that the real conclusion to most speeches happens not when the speaker makes her concluding remarks, but when the Q&A is over.
In the final moment that follow the answer to the last question, when the speaker, slightly dazed from the energetic give-and-take of the Q&A, mumbles her farewell, moving away from the podium, she is relieved – the ordeal is over. This type of exit is so abrupt, so lacking in style that I have often said to myself, “There must be a more elegant way to depart, more fitting for the role of leadership.” There is! I suggest that instead of asking for questions after the conclusion, you do it before the conclusion.
Yes, you read that correctly! Do your Q&A before you do your conclusion. This gives you the last word, allowing you to regain any points you may have lost. Even if you were challenged by some members of the audience during the Q&A, you still have another chance to voice your ideas during the conclusion. This is how.
Before I conclude, are there any questions?
1. Say the last words of your last climax point.
Squeeze your toes three times.
2. Say, “Before I conclude, are there any questions?”
3. Answer as many questions as you have time for.
4. Near the end of your Q&A time, say, “We have time for one more question?”
5. Answer the last question…. Squeeze your toes three times.
6. Say, “In conclusion…”
7. Do your conclusion.
8. Say, “Thank you.”
9. Squeeze your toes three times.
10. Walk back to your seat with style and confidence, saying to yourself, “I slowly walk back to my seat… I feel my hands.”
11. Sit down… Do ten belly breaths (reenter the group).
The Real Purpose of the Q&A
The purpose of a question and answer segment is to add variety to your presentation by giving members of the audience a limited opportunity to participate. When responding to their questions, your objective is to project likability, present yourself and your point of view as calmly, smoothly, and credibly as possible, and hold your position of leadership.
Some participants of my TalkPower seminars feel more comfortable with the Q&A because it gives them a chance to respond directly.
The other seventy percent dread it. Here are the reasons:
“I will not know the answer and I will look foolish or stupid.”
“I am afraid I will have thought-blocking and just stand there like an idiot.”
“I will not be able to articulate a good answer on the spot.”
“I will feel out of control.”
“I am afraid that it will be a question that I will not want to answer.”
“I am afraid that I will get a hostile question, and I will just shut down.”
“I feel I will be exposed and everyone will realize how little I really know, and then they will know that I am not as smart as they think I am.”
All of these responses speak to the past, when you had no tools to deal with your loss of confidence and fear. Using the TalkPower method to maintain concentration under fire will significantly change the way you handle questions in the future. In addition, the following discussion will help you through this very threatening and potentially dangerous section of your talk.
© 2000-2013 by Natalie H. Rogers