- Before the presentation, anticipate potential pushback. As you are preparing the main messages, invite skepticism. Ask colleagues to review your messages and provide feedback: what doesn't make sense?
Rehearse Q&A as part of your presentation preparation. Practice your reaction to questions that seem to come from left field, addressing your body language and facial expressions.
- During the Q&A session, avoid responses like "Thank you for asking that question. . ." or "I'm glad you asked," because in most cases, this simply isn't true. We often default to these replies as we scramble to come up with a good answer. If the person raises a compelling good point or a perspective you hadn't considered, invite them to elaborate, "Tell me more about your experience." This is your opportunity to learn, and more importantly, to create a way for your audience to take part.
Replace phrases like "Yes, but" with "Yes, and" to bridge your response. When people hear "but," they discount any agreement (or goodwill) that preceded the word, and you want to acknowledge that they've been heard.
When someone asks about something you've explained (or thought you have), avoid reminding them with the "As I said . . ." phrase. Instead, try saying, "Lets' take another look." Even if you've explained a concept or an idea several times, if your audience doesn't get it, guess who's at fault?
In each exchange, you want to listen, acknowledge and respond thoughtfully. Granted, this is difficult to do when you are the center of attention, but it’s a critical part of demonstrating to your audience that they are important.
- After your presentation, review the overall Q&A experience. If the sessions are contentious, or entirely devoid of any participation, spend more time preparing and vetting messages and your call to action to find a balance of an engaged and constructive information exchange.
Meghan Dotter has more than 15 years of experience working with organizations to develop and convey messages to clients, colleagues, the media, investors, and analysts. In her roles at a PR agency, as head of external communications for a Fortune 200 company, and through her work at Portico, she has prepared content and coached C-level executives, managers and entrepreneurs in a range of situations—from shareholder and board meetings to internal meetings and crises. Meghan was nicknamed the "engineer whisperer" for her ability to help clients translate complex ideas.