Q&A Quandary

Today’s entry is based on one of the 20 case studies in my position paper, “Beyond the Bottom Line: 20 Ways to Reduce Reputational Risk.”

The risk

Your pivotal presentation goes fine. The Q&A session? That’s another story.

The Background

You spent weeks preparing for your talk to your industry’s top association. All the bigwigs you want to impress (and to gain as clients) show up. They sit in the auditorium, ready to glean your pearls of wisdom.

Your prepared remarks go off without a hitch. Your stories hit the mark. The third party references you bring to bear prove convincing. Your nonverbal skills are flawless. Yes, you prepared impeccably for the main event.

Just one problem. You neglected to steel yourself for question and answer period that came after your prepared remarks.

Picture by Ryan McGuire

The Reputational Costs

It was that one question from an audience members that threw your wheels off the track. Once they jumped the rails, however, all was lost. Your composure was shot. Your ability to answer other kinder and gentler queries was non-existent. Instead of ending with a flourish, you slinked offstage, head down, shoulders slumped, the very image of defeat.

You hoped to be the talk of the town in the afterglow of your presentation. Oh, you were. But not in the way you imagined. How can you tell? Those sideways glances and soft chuckles in the corridors, for one. And the fact that your closest confidantes kept asking if you were okay in the most sympathetic tones possible.

As for snagging new clients? Forget about it. It will take a long time to restore your reputation after this fiasco. And your company’s bottom line? Let’s just say that no new customers equals little in the way of revenue.

Recommended Action

  1. Anticipate tough questions that may arise. Invite the office skeptic to your training sessions, and turn her loose to pepper you with hardballs.
  2. Gain a comfort level with such advanced techniques as bridging. Download a copy of the position paper, “Does Anybody Have Any Questions for My Answers? The 411 on Q&A.”
  3. Have a sense where the “Agenda Hogs” in your audience might lurk. A full treatment of this phenomenon is available in Chapter Eight of The Truth About Public Speaking: The Three Keys to Great Presentations.

You likely have some recommended steps of your own. Time to share them with the community in the Comments section.


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