You’ve finished delivering your speech. The audience was attentive, and you received a nice round of applause. The worst is over. Or is it? After many types of speeches, there is a question and answer portion that can seem daunting, especially if you haven’t prepared. Even if you deliver a stellar speech, if you bomb the Q & A, all the credibility you just built up will be lost. Although you will not know the exact questions you will be asked, there are a few things you can do to prepare for the Q & A.
Consider your audience
Don’t forget the audience analysis you (hopefully) did before writing your speech. This information should still come into play while you answer questions. It’s easy to become too relaxed during this part of the speech, but don’t become so comfortable that you speak solely based off personal opinion. Keep your answers truthful, but tailor the packaging and information you include to suit your audience.
As you prepare, you should make lists of potential questions the audience could ask. There are two lists of questions to create. The first is a list of possible questions that would be asked as a direct result of your speech. The second is possible questions related to your topic, but not covered in your speech. For the second list, consider current events, history and controversy tied to your topic. Make these lists far enough in advance that you have time to prepare responses.
Prepare key messages
The most important part of preparing for Q & A is coming up with a list of key messages you want to communicate. Whether these are reiterations of points you made during your speech or new points you want to communicate, you should work them into your responses. Make sure to fully answer each question the audience asks, but also work to insert one of the key messages into each response. This will take some practice, so you should work on it while you make your lists.
Prepare for controversial questions
You may not want to be asked controversial questions, but you should still prepare for them. If you know your topic is controversial in any way, chances are, the audience will ask a controversial question. Remind yourself to smile and remain calm during these responses. Do research ahead of time to learn about the issues, and know where you stand, as well as how you want to communicate that to the audience. If your topic is fairly tame, try to think of some questions you don’t want to be asked, rather than controversial ones.
Prepare an answer for questions you don’t know the answer to
“I don’t know” can make you sound unprepared, even if you did your homework. Prepare a standard answer you can use for the occasional question you do not have an answer for. The audience should understand that you don’t have the answer to everything. A few options include:
- I’m sorry I don’t have the answer to that, but if you go to [insert source], I believe you can find it.
- That’s a great question. Unfortunately, it did not come up during my research, but I will look into it.
- While I don’t know X, I do know Y . . .
Write a conclusion
Don’t end with your final answer as your concluding response. Prepare a quick conclusion that will wrap things up. This conclusion should briefly thank the audience and repeat one of the key messages you want them to remember.
If you are worried about the Q & A, preparation will help. Remember to relax and be natural. You’re the expert.