No presentation feels complete without a question-and-answer session to cap it off. It only makes sense to expect an influx of questions following the communication of important information, especially if it has the potential to impact employees across your company. So, Q&A sessions are arguably just as important as presentations themselves. The challenge then becomes how you can ensure everyone involved gets the most value from these Q&A sessions.
The goal is for everyone to depart feeling that they’ve digested the information at hand, gotten the opportunity to provide their own input and subsequently understand how to act productively moving forward. Here are a few guidelines for maximizing the effectiveness of these interactive sessions.
Establish Expectations at the Outset
While Q&As should maintain some flexibility, they tend to become counterproductive if the session turns into a “free for all.” It behooves the speaker to set some ground rules at the outset. For example, let people know the format of your session. Will you be passing a microphone around? Will you be using polling technology? Approximately long will the Q&A last? To whom should participants address their questions? Will there be any follow-up materials distributed after the in-person session?
Take a few moments as a speaker or moderator to establish expectations so the actual Q&A activity will flow smoothly.
Prepare for Challenging Inquiries
Practicing for the Q&A session is just as important as practicing for the actual “meat” of the presentation. This may entail:
- Collecting some questions ahead of time so you can provide answers backed by critical thought and data.
- Anticipating employee queries—simple, complex, difficult and every type in between.
- Taking a moment to ruminate on your answer before speaking.
As one strategist advises for Inc., “Usually, it’s the last thing you do on stage after a presentation, and it may be the portion you are most remembered for. Don’t give it short shrift.”
Let Participants Rank Submissions
It’s important to utilize every second of your Q&A session so it imparts maximum value to participants in an efficient manner. Similarly to how the Google Moderator tool used to prioritize group queries and comments by allowing participants to rank them, modern audience response technology does the same.
Here’s how it works: Audience members can use their mobile devices to submit feedback and questions in real time. Others can then upvote their favorites, sending them to the top. This helps speakers gauge which queries to address within their limited timeframe, ensuring the most relevant and pressing issues see the light of day. Instead of having to sift through questions to determine the most relevant, speakers can depend on crowdsourcing to quickly prioritize.
Ask for Reactions, Too
Audience members will naturally have questions following a company presentation. But the questions don’t strictly have to come from viewers; nor do the answers have to come from the speakers alone. There’s a great opportunity for role-switching here.
As one contributor recommends for Harvard Business Review, ask for reactions and observations in addition to questions. Sometimes people have great thoughts that simply don’t fit the form of the question, so this exercise will allow them to contribute valuable input without having to struggle with the format. Compiling people’s questions and concerns—even the ones you don’t necessarily have time to address in person—is an excellent way to create a resource upon which to base future action items and meetings.
Want to get the most from your company’s next Q&A session following a presentation? To start, focus on the most pressing questions and comments by letting your audience vote them to the top.