Working with business people and subject-matter experts in corporations and government agencies over the last 20 years, one thing we consistently hear is presenters want to feel more confident during the question-and-answer part of public speaking.
Whether it’s responding appropriately during panel discussions, taking questions from live audience members, or keeping your composure at a public meeting, handling on-the-fly questions can cause even the most courageous of us to get queasy.
Here are two ways to address this problem:
Imagine a time when have you done a great job responding to a touchy question. What did that feel like? Picture yourself in the experience in detail, the other person’s response, the sensations in your body. Prepare yourself to master this communications skill by creating it inside your mind first! Neurochemicals in your brain will be produced as you hold the vision, preparing you to knock the next Q&A out of the park, and the neural pathways required to improving your skill in this area will be strengthened–even before you’re even in front of an audience!
Next, no matter what kind of question it is, there is a simple, direct way to get to your answer with clarity. Consider practicing these conscious approaches to elevate the conversation and stay focused on your key message:
“I’d like to finish my answer to the last question before I respond to that.” Remember that tonality is everything in this statement. Your intention is to communicate your innate friendliness and helpfulness.
If neither is true, say so.
Don’t speculate. Make a transition (bridge) to what you can speak to.
Acknowledge broadness, then focus on your area of expertise and answer your own question.
Complicated, Multi-Part Questions
Acknowledge multiple parts, break it up, answer each part separately.
Address question, make transition to a positive related subject. Repeat the same answer if asked again, or consider answering a question you pose yourself.