Keep calm and be ready
Sometimes presenters are afraid they will not be able to answer the audience’s questions in the final Q&A session. If you are well prepared you should have no problems with all sorts of questions on your topic. Your preparation should include time to jot down possible questions or areas of possible disagreement, and draft appropriate replies. If you get a very specific question that you don’t know the answer to, admitting it is better than making up an answer. When this happens to me I write down the question and promise to get back to the person with an answer. It also gives me an excuse to get in touch with audience members and build a relationship.
But what do you do if you have allocated 10 minutes or more for Q&A and nobody raises their hand?
The silence can mean a lot of things, like “let’s get this over with and go have lunch” but if your presentation was well prepared and delivered it most likely means that it’s hard for everyone to break the ice and start off this part of the session.
Here is one tip that can get things going.
After approximately 15 seconds, break the silence and say “this is a question that I get very often” or “I’m sure some of you might have questions about…”, state the question clearly, and give a great answer (prepared in advance), but don’t make it too long. This tactic can help to open up the discussion. Amd even if no other questions follow, people will leave thinking that there was a Q&A and you will look professionally prepared for anything.
For other tips on preparing for Q&A you may wish to read this good article by Stephanie Patterson that appeared recently on the Duarte blog: Fail-Proof Q&A Prep.
What other techniques have you used in cases of Q&A silence? Share your experiences with a comment below.