Q&A Preparation: Answering the Audience's Questions After a Speech

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  • 0:01 Predicting Audience Questions
  • 1:00 Formulating Possible Answers
  • 2:06 When You Don't Know the Answer
  • 2:50 Bottom Line
  • 3:19 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kat Kadian-Baumeyer

Kat has a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership and Management and teaches Business courses.

When the audience asks a question, the speaker must be sure that he/she can properly respond with an answer that is correct and that satisfies the inquisitor. There are a few ways the speaker can formulate an answer and deliver it with confidence.

Predicting Audience Questions

So, it's your first speech. You got through everything without a hitch! Just when you think you can leave the stage and jet to your car, someone raises their hand! No, they are not asking permission to use the restroom. They have a question for you. And all you can think is... please let me know the answer.

That is exactly why it is so important to predict questions ahead of time. What this means is think about questions the audience may have after listening to your speech.

Now, we know you do not have a crystal ball. There is no possible way to anticipate every question thrown at you. But, you can make reasonable guesses based on the content of your speech.

Before we get into what they may ask, here are a few reasons they will ask questions:

  • More information is needed
  • They need clarification
  • Something was difficult to understand
  • Someone disagrees with you
  • Better situation - someone actually agrees with you

The best way to get around these types of questions is to plan for it.

Formulating Possible Answers

Simply stated, formulating answers is just developing a set of answers to possible questions. One way you can prepare for the awkward moment is by practicing your speech in front of a mock audience. This can be a group of people gathered for the sole purpose of listening to your speech with the intent of finding holes where questions may be asked.

Once your mock audience listens to your speech, ask them to draft questions that would most likely be asked. You can use this information in two ways: add more to the speech or jot down responses on note cards.

Another way you can flesh out questions that may be asked is to contact attendees prior to the speech and ask them to fill out questions or items they would like covered. Now, this may not always be possible, but it's a good start.

Let's not forget social media. You may want to create a Twitter account prior to the speech. When you meet with the audience, have them tweet questions to you. Then, have a colleague field the questions and prepare answers. You can go over the questions at the end of the speech.

When You Don't Know the Answer

Now, there will be occasions where the audience members ask you a question that you just don't know how to answer. Once you get past the dizziness and nausea, take a deep breath and be honest.

Here are a few ways to respond:

  • That's a very good question. Let me get back to you with an answer.
  • Wow, I have been pondering the same thing. I will be sure to research the answer and post it on my website soon.
  • I don't have the answer this moment, but I will be sure to find out and let you know.
  • Terrific question; does anyone in the audience know the answer?

What you are doing is making light of not knowing the answer and keeping it positive. After all, nobody wants to be told a wrong answer.

Bottom Line

Let's face it. Nobody wants to feel as though the wool is being pulled over his or her eyes. So, the best approach to the dreaded question and answer period is to be straightforward and honest with your audience. Listen to their questions and provide them with the best possible answer. If you do not know the answer, remain focused, look them in the eyes and admit it.

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