Running a smooth Q&A session all starts with letting the audience know when you will take their questions.
As the presenter, it’s really important that you maintain control. It’s your right as a presenter to stand up there at the beginning and say things like, “I’d like it if you could please hold your questions ‘til the end and then we’ll take them all at one time.” If you don’t do something like that, then somebody might just interrupt you two minutes into your presentation and derail the entire presentation, and it’s really not a very friendly thing to do to somebody if they raise their hand and you say, “Could you wait and hold that question until later?” That’s like a virtual slap in the face. But remember, when you’re in an investor meeting, they’re the ones in control. So even if you’ve asked to hold questions ‘til the end, and they ask you one in the middle, you probably should take it.
The most important thing you can do during that question that you’re getting from an audience is listen really carefully. Do what’s called “active listening.” Pay really close attention to what they’re saying. Look them straight in the eye, and don’t let any thoughts in your head get in the way. Remember you have two ears and one mouth. Try using them in that proportion. Now, when you’re responding to the question you’ve been asked, it’s really important that you make sure everyone in the room has heard the question. In a large room, very often, a question is asked, and the rest of the people can’t hear it. And you answer the question, and nobody really knows what the original question was. So please repeat that question for the benefit of the people in the room. If you’re just one, two, or three people in the room it doesn’t make sense to repeat the question unless you need a little bit of time to think about the answer that you want to give. Now if you don’t understand the question or you’re confused on the question or you weren’t actively listening and now you haven’t heard the whole question, ask them to restate it. It’s actually okay. And then finally, if you have any idea, any thought that you haven’t answered the question that the person has asked to their satisfaction, simply verify, “Have I answered your question to your satisfaction, yes or no?” If they say no, that’s great. Now you can go in deeper and answer the question to their satisfaction. If they say yes, just move on.
Eric Holtzclaw. “9 Tips for Handling a Q&A Session.” Inc. Online Post. Feb. 5 2013.
Elizabeth Bernstein. “How ‘Active Listening’ Makes Both Participants in a Conversation Feel Better“. Wall Street Journal. Online Column. Jan. 12, 2015.
Take note of how the audience reacts when you tell them when they can ask questions. Be sure and use the proper tone of voice when asking or telling the audience about questions. I much prefer to “ask” the audience to hold their questions until the end rather than “tell” them to do this. It’s more friendly and generates more rapport with your audience of 1 or many.
Questions for You
Do I want to have people ask questions during my presentation or at the end?
Am I using Active Listening when people are asking me questions?
Have I been repeating the questions I get when in front of an audience?
Tools and exercises
Practice letting the investor audience know that you will be happy to take questions throughout. This needs to be covered right up front and with the right tone of voice so as to not offend or sound arrogant.
Practice letting the investor audience know that you will be happy to take questions at the end. Be flexible and ready for questions throughout. This needs to be covered right up front and with the right tone of voice so as to not offend or sound arrogant.
Practice having someone ask you a complicated question. Listen very carefully. Be sure you heard the right question by asking the audience if this is what they are asking. Try to not rephrase the question too much, but rather paraphrase it.
When giving presentations and giving answers to questions, practice repeating the question to the audience to be sure everyone heard the question. You do not need to do this if it is obvious that everyone can hear the question.