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Six Rules for Q&A

Updated: Feb 29


Not done correctly, the Q&A Session of your presentation can destroy an otherwise excellent talk. Don’t let that happen!

Done correctly, the Q&A Session can add value to your presentation. It’s an opportunity to connect directly with the audience, demonstrate you know your topic in depth, and are skillful at presenting more than your prepared address.

Let’s look at Six Rules for Q&A that will have a positive impact on the audience and make you a better presenter.

1. In your Opening, tell the audience when you’ll be taking questions.

  1. Usually, the best time to have a Q&A Session is after the body of your talk, and before your Closing.

  2. There are several reasons why:

  3. What do you do if, in the first five minutes of your speech, someone asks about something you’ve included in your third to last slide?

  4. Do you answer it and immediately have to change the structure of your prepared talk, or say, ‘I’ll get to that.’?

  5. Both are poor options. They interrupt and distract you and the audience, and eat up presentation time.

  6. How many times have you been to a talk and the presenter says, “Gosh! We have only five minutes left, and I’vel got fifteen more slides to show you. Hold on!”

  7. The Closing is the Closing (That’s why it’s called the Closing!) Here’s why: The last thing you say and do will be the first thing the audience will remember.  

  8. Always deliver a Strong Closing with a Call to Action or something significant for them to be thinking about as they leave the venue.

  9. Taking questions after the Conclusion of your talk has the audience remembering the answer you gave to the last question asked. If you and the questioner get into a disagreement (or worse) about your answer, that is going to be in the mind’s of the audience when they remember your talk. That may not be the take-away you want the audience thinking about as they leave the venue.

    1. An alternative to this is to take a limited number of questions after each section of your talk, specifically on that section. If you take this approach, hold to it! That verbiage works, also!

    2. Example: “I’m going to talk about them Components, Parts, and Elements of a Presentation. I’ll name them, explain them, and give examples. I have a short amount of time allotted for three questions after each section. I have a longer amount of time set aside after all the sections. After that, I’ll close my presentation.”  That verbiage works!

    3. If I should get interrupted by someone waving their hand before I get to Q&A, I’ll say, “Do me a big favor, please. Write that question down. If I don’t cover it before we get the the Q&A part of my talk, be sure to ask it. Thanks!

  10. If your presentation is a Workshop, Q&A is modified and questions taken as you progress through the material.

  11. If possible, only give your attendees one piece of paper at a time to work on as you present. If they have all the worksheets in front of them, many will look at other papers. This will take their focus away from the work at hand and prove distracting to others.

2. Starting the Q&A.

  1. Don’t say, “Do you have any questions?”

  2. Some will think, “I have several questions, but perhaps I missed something in the presentation. No one else is raising their hands and I’m not going to embarrass myself by asking something I should have noted.

  3. A better start is to ask, “What questions do you have for me?”

  4. A stronger way to ask is, “When I opened my presentation, I said I had time set aside for questions. This is that time. What questions do you have for me?

  5. Raise your hand as you make those statements and you’ll get a much better response.

  6. Prime the pump.

  7. Request a friend in the audience to ask a question you’ve given them in advance of the event.

  8. Have a few questions ‘in your hip pocket’ and start the questioning by telling the audience, “I’m going to ask the first question. One of the questions I’m always asked is. . .”

3. Be certain the audience hears and understands each question.

  1. In some situations, in large rooms and with many people, each questioner may not have a microphone and won’t be heard by everyone.

  2. Repeat the question, sometimes paraphrasing for better understanding for you, and the audience. Then ask the questioner, “Is that what you’re asking?” or “Did I get that correct?”

4. Answering questions.

  1. Look the questioner directly in the eye, finish a thought, and move on to make eye contact with a different person. Repeat until the you’ve completed your answer.

  2. If you answer the question by only looking at the person who asked it, they may ask a follow-up question. Answer that, and you and that individual are in a conversation, excluding everyone else.

5. Don’t say, “Good Question!”

  1. That phrase is overused. If you say it to the first three questioners, what does the fourth expect to hear?

  2. It’s better to use expressions like:

  3. “Thanks for asking.”

  4. “Let me answer that.” Then, answer it!

  5. Answer it directly without the lead-in.

6. If you don’t know the answer.

  1. Never lie or fake the answer.

  2. Never throw it out to the audience by saying something like, “Does anyone know the answer?” 

  3. You lose control of your presentation and time! The person responding may have an incorrect answer.

  4. Others may respond with different takes on the question and that further takes control away from you, the speaker.

  5. It’s better to say, “I’m having a brain cramp on that one. Do me a favor, please: If I don’t give you the answer by the time we conclude, grab me afterwards and we’ll figure it out. Thanks!”

Use the above Six Rules for Q&A in your next presentation, and I Guarantee it will be – NO SWEAT!


Pausing is a key component of presenting.

About the Author Fred E. Miller is a speaker, an international coach, and the author of the books,“NO SWEAT Public Speaking!” and “NO SWEAT Elevator Speech!”

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