It’s just as legitimate for you to have a reason to participate in a Q&A as it is for the people asking questions. Make this a discussion rather than a quiz. Come prepared with the three key points you wish people to remember. And while you don’t want to dodge their queries, use these five techniques to ensure you get to share your messages.
This is the art of answering a tough or off-target question (or an easy question) and smoothly segueing to a key message. Give a short, honest answer to the question, and then either 1) ask another question-and answer with one of your points, or 2) move directly to your message. If you can’t logically bridge to a key idea, then give the short answer and stop.
Bridging maintains a two-party dialog without ceding control:
- “I don’t know the answer to that question. What I do know is …”
- “It sounds as though what you’re really asking is …”
This forces your questioner to take in more information than he or she expected. You say you have three important points to share, and then make everyone listen without interrupting you. Number each as you say them. Only do this with questions that need a lengthy answer. For example: “We do this in three ways. First, … Second, … Third, …”
(Not what you think!) Give people a taste of an idea to encourage the follow-up questions you want:
- “You’d be surprised at what our research indicates …” [What does your research indicate?]
- “We’ve got some other exciting new services that will be available soon …” [What are they?]
Use this technique carefully. It offers the least amount of control — because you have to hope your audience is following you closely enough to ask that right second question.
This lets you use language and your tone of voice to let people know you’re about to share something important — so they should listen up:
- “Here’s the most important point: …”
- “If you remember nothing else about what we’ve discussed today, remember this: …”
Use this for the final question. The presentation shouldn’t end just because people ran out of questions. Circle back to the key messages you want people to remember — in addition to thanking them for their help and participation:
- “In closing, let me leave you with these three ideas …
- “Those were excellent questions. In summary …
Don’t forget your call to action. Tell everyone what you want them to do now that they understand the compelling case you’ve made. Leave nothing to chance (because that increases the chances you won’t get what you want).
People Remember What You Said, Not the Question
The first step is to determine your three key points beforethe Q&A. The second is to be so familiar with them that you can use bridging, listing, hooking and flagging to reinforce your points. And then summarize to make sure your audience didn’t miss anything and knows what to do next.
This increases the likelihood that people will remember — and do — what you want. Now you’ve capitalized on the true opportunity a Q&A offers.