I sat through a pretty good business presentation this morning Columbia, MO’s 1 Million Cups club. If you happen to be a new business entrepreneur, and there is a 1 Million Cups club in your area, I strongly suggest you attend. But back to the presentation…
At 1 MC meetings, entrepreneurs make a short pitch, usually limited to six minutes, to the audience and then respond to 20 minutes of questions as to how the business will be run or making suggestions on improving your business. It is a lot like the television show, “Shark Tank,” and really is a lot of fun – at least for the audience at least. For the speaker, not so much.
As I said, our presenter did a pretty good job. Her presentation was to the point, had few interrupters (ahas and uhms) and flowed with her PowerPoint presentation well. Where she fell down was during the question and answer session.
Whether you are in business or are a politician, here are 4 basic rules concerning handling the Q&A.
1) Actively listen to the question then take at least one beat before answering the question. This goes along with the third reason why you should repeat the question. Too often we are devising the response to the question before the question is finished and miss an important point. Actively listen to the question, take a breath and then respond.
2) Repeat the Question – There were some 50 people in attendance at this morning’s meeting and the people in the back of the room had some problems hearing the questions being asked in the front. There are three reasons you should repeat the question.
The first is the most obvious; to make sure those in the back of the room hear know what is being asked. Even if the audience in only five people, always repeat the question. You do not want to answer the same question twice.
Second, is make sure you understand the question. For example, when our presenter was asked about her margins for the shoe business, she gave us the number in dollars, where the questioner wanted in percentage.
The third reason is not so obvious. Sometimes you do not want to answer what is being asked. You can often rephrase the question without complaint to something you can answer.
3) Speak up and to the back of the room. When a question came from the front of the room, our presenter spoke directly to that person and those in the back could not hear the response. Even if the questioner is sitting in the front of the room, the answer may be of interest to someone in the back of the room.
4) If you do not know the answer, say so. People will know if you are making something up on the spot and most of the time, at least in a business setting, this is not a good thing. If there is another SME in the room, defer to her or him. If not, ask if someone else could answer the question.
If an answer is required and there is no help from the audience, tell the questioner you will research the question and get back with him ASAP. And you do get back with the questioner without fail. The only reason not to respond is your own death.
These are a few of the basic rules for the presenter working the Q&A portion of the presentation. If you are giving testimony in court or are answering questions from reporters, there are a few other tidbits and “tricks” to know.