Getting ready for your next speech should be a time-filling experience. Most, if not all, speakers would agree. And one element that can't be overlooked is the job of getting ready for a question and answer session. Yes, there will be questions. After all, you have set yourself the task of engaging your audience. And your audience will want to check a fact or a figure. And they will probably want your opinion on something. That's how it works. So, you need to prepare for your question and answer session.
Diane Abbot, the Shadow Home Secretary, discovered to her cost today the lesson of question preparation. Yes, it's true that she didn't give a speech, but it was her answers in a radio interview that were found wanting.
Diane Abbot's difficulty on LBC radio today is certainly extreme, but others have found themselves in such circumstances before. It's painful for everyone involved. It's painful to participate in the event and it's also painful to watch. It just isn't a situation you'd seek out.
Prepare For Your Question And Answer Session
So what's the problem? In fact, there are three main problems that speakers report when they struggle with questions.
- The problem of the unknown question...the random question from nowhere!
- A fear of inarticulacy.
- The challenge of what to say if you don't know an answer?
Fortunately there's some rationale to these problems. Some take more explaining than others, but others are self-explaining.
- You haven't prepared for questions, so everything is a total surprise.
- When you can't hear the question, you will struggle with any answer at all.
- You were distracted or focused on something other than the questioner. (This was probably the difficulty for Diane Abbot's radio interview.)
- Or, you simply misunderstood the question.
So, once you understand the rationale behind the problems, then you have the chance to take action. Prepare your solutions and become more active with your Q and A sessions.
Get Ready For Questions
- Prepare for questions well in advance of your speech. Then practise how you give those answers. Because you can never have too much practice.
- Get yourself ready. Be focused on the questioner. Listen. And answer them directly. Remember to stay focused and do not be distracted.
- If you don't know an answer, then say so. Or you could explain to the questioner that there's someone else in the room who will know the answer. Then explain that you will introduce them during the next break in proceedings. Simple.
- When you know the answer, but have trouble getting the words together, then take action. Play for time. Write down a word on a notepad or a flipchart. Acknowledge your questioner's point, pause and speak slowly. Your answer will come.
So, your public speaking role has to include the job of answering questions. And that job is little different to your main speaking role. Aim to be prepared. Practise beforehand. Stay focused and calm. Above all, appreciate the fact that your audience wants to ask questions. Believe me, that's a good thing! Because no-one wants to get in the position that Herman Cain found himself in. That was when his pause suggested Cain wasn't able.
You can always take part in a public speaking course with colleagues from your own organisation. We can fix something up in next to no time at a suitable venue or your own offices. And, of course we can organise a suitable date for everyone. Please don't hesitate to get in touch when the time is right for corporate training.
Public Speaking Skills Tips
You can discover a whole series of public speaking tips from Time to Market. Read them, listen to the podcasts or watch the videos. And, when you want to give your own public speaking skills a further boost, please don't hesitate to consider some training or coaching. You can always contact us when the time is right.
Please don't hesitate to get in touch for any public speaking course advice.
"To realise that the question does not matter is the first step towards answering it correctly."