It’s not different. Sometimes I hear people say, “Oh I don’t mind giving a presentation but it’s the question and answer session that I don’t like. That’s something separate, something different.”
If you are like most people, chances are you’ve put a huge chunk of time into your presentation, but probably no thought, or very little thought, to the question-answer session. So many people think that because the question and answer session usually follows a presentation, that it is something separate, something different. It’s not different.
The question and answer session is an extension of your presentation. It’s not there in a vacuum. It’s not there in isolation. It’s not a stand-alone.
It’s an extension of your presentation, and the very place where you have prime opportunity to reinforce your key points, to drive home your core message. It’s also the place where you have the opportunity to give added value to your presentation.
Here are two ways in which you are adding value.
1. You are adding value by extending the learning process, building on what you said during your presentation. The question and session gives you the space where you can add more information, expanding on the benefits of your products or services, commenting on their proven track record and at the same time adding to the stature of your company or organization.
2. You are adding value because now you have the opportunity to reinforce your message: Extra time to build understanding. Deepen your audience connection, and create some form of acceptance of your idea, product or service. When audience members are clear on what’s been presented and have confidence in their presenter, it’s easier for them to make a decision in favor of what has been presented.
Wrapping up the question-answer session is more than just tossing out an answer here tossing out an answer there. It’s part of your presentation. It’s not different. The question and answer session is very place where you can add more value to your presentation, and share that value with your audience.
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Presenters need to know this one thing if they are looking for speaking success. There’s no exception. As a presenter you need to know what you want your audience to do. It doesn’t matter the type of presentation, how long or the topic or the size of the audience. What presenters need to know at the start of every presentation is – what do they want their audience to do with the information they are giving them.
Ever sat in a workshop where the presenter wraps up the presentation by moving into the question and answer session? As soon as the question and answer ends, the presenter, with a smile looks at the audience and says a few words of appreciation ending with “That’s all we have time for today. Thanks very much for being here.” And sadly, the presentation ends at this point.
What a totally lame and totally ineffective way to wrap-up a presentation. Audience members put their bums into seats, give their attention and time to listen because they are looking for something from the speaker that will help make their lives easier, better or more comfortable in some way. It’s the job of every presenter to show the audience how the information being presented will do just that.
To meet the needs of the audience, presenters need to be clear on what they want their audience to do, think or feel. Information in and of itself doesn’t really have any meaning. But, it’s what you, as the presenter, help people do with the information, the direction that you give them that will make a difference and add value to their lives.
Definitely, be engaging as a presenter. Definitely, make the question and answer session exciting. However, to be credible and memorable, presenters need to know what they want their audience to do with the information that been delivered and then get them to do it.
Is the audience ready? Are they ready to listen? Comfortably seated and ready to give you their full attention?
I see it happening over and over again…and if you are doing it, stop.
If you are beginning your speech or presentation and the audience isn’t ready to hear what you are saying, you need to stop talking. Wait until the audience gives you 100% of their attention.
As a rule, when a speaker is introduced and walks on stage, the audience applauds. It’s at this point where I’ve watched speakers do the unthinkable. It’s unthinkable because they are not thinking about what they’re doing.
The speakers are on auto-pilot. They move immediately into speaking mode, focused more on themselves and what they have to say, than their audience. Perhaps the speakers are nervous, uncomfortable or not fully prepared. As a result, their attention is not on their audience. So when they get on stage even though the audience hasn’t finished applauding, that doesn’t seem to register on the speaker’s radar screen.
The size of the audience doesn’t matter. Location of the audience: boardroom, auditorium or standing at a job-site doesn’t matter. What matters is … Is the audience ready for you – as the speaker, as the presenter? If the answer is, no, then why would you begin your presentation?
Speaking before you have the undivided attention of the people sitting in front of you is a disservice.
It’s a disservice to you, as the speaker because you have missed a prime opportunity to connect with audience right from the beginning. As well, your introduction of the topic is seriously compromised when your audience isn’t ready to listen.
It is a disservice to your audience because they have come with the intent of adding something of value to their day, and have committed to giving you their time.
If you are like most people, you’ve spent a good chunk of time and put enormous effort into your speech. So, the next time before you begin your speech, ask yourself, “Is the audience ready?”
It’s only when your audience is ready for you, and you have 100% of their attention that they will hear and appreciate every word you have to say.
Speaking success depends on solid preparation. That’s a no-brainer. Former Mayor of New York City, Rudy Guiliani, once said, “No one, no matter how gifted can perform without preparation.”
Most of us have had speaking opportunities where we fly by the seat of our pants. Caught unaware and unprepared, we muddle our way through an impromptu speaking moment. And, once seated think how much better it would have been if only we had been able to prepare a few words in advance.
Few would argue that a person’s success depends on solid preparation. All of us would raise our hands and swear we do we do just that. But, what does solid preparation really mean?
A number of years ago I read an interview in a Vancouver business magazine. Professional speaker, consultant and author Cheryl Cran said she prepares not only for her presentations to go well, but also prepares for all the things that could go wrong. What a concept!
Most of us, when we think about preparing a speech or presentation, think content. We spend an enormous amount of time on massaging the information we have. We also give lots of thought to our message and how we will deliver what we want to say to our audience in the most engaging manner.
However, well prepared presenters go beyond having their message well-crafted and ready to deliver. Yes, they prepare for the expected, the size of the audience, the room layout, the seating, the electronics and technology and so on, but they also prepare for the unexpected.
They ready themselves in advance for things that could go wrong: sudden noises, equipment failures, shortened speaking time, or a program change. With any disruption, a well prepared presenter remains emotionally and mentally grounded and is able to convey that sense of confidence and security to the audience.
Polished presenters know that speaking success depends on solid preparation…and that starts long before they enter the room and walk to centre stage.
Audience response tip 2 is all about letting your audience know in advance, how you want them to respond when you ask them a question. In giving presentations, speakers often throw out questions to their audience, and then forget to give their audience clear direction on how they expect them to respond.
Does the speaker expect the audience to shout out their answers? Jump up from their seats? Or does the speaker want audience members to raise their hands so the speaker can call on them one at a time? Audience response tip 2 is one of the most basic speaker tips. Speakers must let their audience know what what they want them to do, either by telling them or by showing them through example.
Perhaps the audience has been asked a hypothetical question, a ‘what if’ question by the speaker. Are people supposed to just sit back in their seats and imagine? If so, how long should they do this activity … 10 seconds, 15 seconds, 30 seconds? Will there be a discussion following the ‘imagining? Will questions be asked? Or will the speaker just continue with the presentation once the audience-activity has finished?
For speakers and presenters everywhere, questions are a great tool for interacting and building connection with their audience, but questions work best when the audience is given clear instruction on how they should respond. Without clear instruction audience members can quickly lose focus or get distracted. When that happens presentation flow gets interrupted and in any confusion, no matter how small, important points can easily be forgotten or lost completely.
The next time you are giving a presentation and want to use questions to engage your audience, stop. Make sure the people listening to you know exactly what’s expected. When they know how you want them to respond, they will follow through every time.
“Your workshop was great! It was productive, valuable and encouraging. For much of my career, I have been presenting specialized data to industry and government. Your session served as an excellent refresher for me. Your tips on body language and vocal variety reminded me how important these skills are to effective presentations. I also enjoyed the hands-on activities and appreciated the easy to implement techniques you provided. Whether a person is a new presenter or an experienced professional like myself they will benefit from this course. I highly recommend you and this workshop to anyone who is interested in sharpening their presentation skills.”
Regional Communications Manager, Government of Canada
Dorothea created a presentation customized to our needs. Her high level of expertise and professionalism was a delight. Thank you, Dorothea, for equipping our participants with new tools they can use in their personal and professional lives!
Government of Canada
I would certainly recommend Dorothea to anyone looking to expand their horizons.
Account Manager, CGA program