7 Simple Steps to Killer Q&A

Updated: July 27, 2010

1. Restate the Question

Briefly restate the question as you understand it before answering. This provides an opportunity to make sure that the question is the one the person really meant to ask, that you understand what it really is, and that everyone in the room is sure to have heard the question and will better understand your answer. This also gives you an opportunity to re-frame confrontational or vague questions in a way that works to your best advantage.

"So, if I understand your question correctly, you want to know whether or not product A has feature X and how product A differs from Product B?"

2. Connect The Dots

In your answer, connect the question back to the particular point in your presentation that most likely prompted it. This will allow people who were taking notes during the presentation to put your answer where it belongs and it will allow you to repeat, reinforce, and elaborate on one of your key topics.

"You may recall my touching on this before the demo when I was talking about release dates. We are on schedule to be the first to market with the following new features..."

3. Don't Be Redundant

Be careful to not just reiterate your talking points in response to the questions. Doing that makes the questioner feel like you think they are dim or deaf. Even when you are connecting back to a specific point in your presentation, make sure that the answer adds substance and value.

"Let me expand on something I mentioned earlier about our competitive advantage in the market segment you are asking about..."

4. Assume The Best

Remember that most of the people in the audience are not experienced or comfortable with speaking in front of a group, and so asking a question might make them nervous and to ask a question in a way that makes them seem aggressive or confrontational. Assume the best about the questioner's intent. In most cases, they wouldn't be asking the question if they did not find your presentation interesting and really want to know more.

"A honest question deserves an honest answer, so let me try my best to give you one..."

5. Speak Their Language

Use basic, common language. Don't assume that your listeners share your mother tongue or that they know all the same trade jargon or idiomatic expressions that you do.

"Our strategy for addressing the small and medium business information technology market is..." is much better than "Our GTM for SMB IT is.."

6. Take Your Time

Speak at a measured pace. You may want to answer as many questions as possible, but doing so is of little value if you speak too quickly to be understood on any of them. This also gives the note-takers in the room an opportunity to record the question and answer. They are typically the most motivated listeners and should be accommodated as much as possible.

"In response to that I would say that, 1.) the product will be out early next year, 2.) we are actively looking for testers now, and 3.) you can sign up at the following web address..."

7. Give Them Credit

Compliment the questioner and mean it. In most cases they are not there to hear YOU, they are there to hear what you have to say. In asking a question, they are showing interest, granting you the opportunity to further make your point, and giving you permission to try and close the sale. You owe them a lot for that and should show it in a sincere way.

"That is a great question..." "I could probably have been a little clearer when I said..." "That is a better way to look at it..."

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