How to facilitate an enlightening Q&A

Didn’t see that one coming.

How can you respond thoughtfully to your participant’s spontaneous question… without disregarding the agenda for your virtual presentation?

Most importantly, how can you use this opportunity to communicate empathy and respect for the dynamics that led them to ask the question… and establish your authority on the topic?

Follow these eight tips for facilitating a great Q&A.

1. Establish guidelines for how questions will be answered.

Can learners expect you to answer their questions in the chat box throughout your talk? If so, it’s all the more important to have a producer to help make sure you don’t miss any urgent questions in the chat stream.

Or are you setting aside specific times when you’ll answer questions? Perhaps after a break, when learners can type anonymous questions in an “Ask-It Basket”?

Make these guidelines clear up front, so that your learners don’t feel ignored, and you don’t feel caught off guard.

2. Seek clarification.

After you receive a question, thank the participant for asking. Affirm them for caring enough about the content to ask an insightful question. And be sure to listen to the question fully, paraphrase it back to them, and confirm with them that you understood it.

3. Answer with stories and examples.

Don’t merely respond with theories and generic best practices. Respond with concrete stories and examples of those theories in action, wherever possible. Your responses will be more convincing and memorable.

4. Bring the question and answer back to your presentation.

Frame your response in a way that points learners back to the main points of your presentation. And when someone asks a question that you’re already planning to cover in a later part of your presentation, use the question as an opportunity to tease that content and build curiosity.

5. Confirm that you answered the question.

After answering, ask the participant who raised the question whether they feel you answered it completely.

6. If you don’t know the answer, that’s OK.

Be honest. They’ll respect your humility. Promise to do further research and circle back with them, so that you can provide them with a complete answer.

7. Have your own “back pocket” questions ready.

What’s a common question or misconception that many audience members have on your presentation topic, but that your listeners might be too shy to ask?

Always be ready to tee up and answer that question for your audience. It’ll give you a chance to knock an answer out of the park early in the Q&A, and it might help inspire participants to think of other questions.

8. Don’t close with the Q&A.

If you want to do a Q&A near the end of your talk, do it before your closer, so that you leave your audience with a final illustration, story or activity that helps them remember and apply their key ideas from your presentation.

So which of those tips are you best at right now? Which one highlights an opportunity for you to grow as a Q&A facilitator?

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