Your pitch deck doesn’t end when you finish delivering your pitch. You might have an interactive pitch deck or award-winning speech that determines your success, but the effectiveness of your overall performance all points to one objective: getting your message across clearly to your audience.
The other crucial elements that define your pitch’s impact are: your manner of speaking, voice projection, body language, and how you convince your audience to listen and take immediate action.
The Q&A portion is an essential part of any professional pitch. This is where the audience gets the chance to speak up and clarify some important points, letting you listen attentively to understand their queries. Also it allows you to mention other useful examples that boosts not only their interest, but also their desire to learn more from you.
However, there are things that some presenters fall short of when addressing questions.
Here are three practices you might overlook the next time you speak onstage and entertain audience questions. Avoid these blunders before they disrupt your success:
1. Failing to Prepare
You might have spent most of your time preparing your deck and pitch before the big day. But it’s not enough to anticipate immediate success. Failing to formulate questions that might be tapped during the Q&A portion can leave you out of control, especially when you’re asked with a difficult question. Remember that the crowd has invested their time and effort to listen and learn. This is why you need to show your respect by being well-prepared to prevent them from being disappointed. Whether you’re a novice or a seasoned speaker, it’s important to list down what your audience might bring up to help you construct a more direct statement as your response.
International speaker Alan Fairweather advises presenters to think of possible questions that might come up while planning and preparing your pitch. This will not only allow you to give useful answers for your audience, but will also prevent you from being viewed as unprofessional. Having enough practice also lets you ask for other’s feedback and encourages them to ask more about your topic. It can also keep you from being noticed as unconfident and incompetent. In this case, you can have someone from your colleague to seat in front and observe your performance. Let him listen to and understand your topic while doing a mock pitch. Once you’re done talking, demand questions and convince him to raise questions. Not only will it help you rehearse for the actual pitch. It’ll also make you more comfortable in addressing any kind of questions.
This gives you an idea on how to properly respond to audience concerns and provide a more logical answer that’ll make them satisfied.
2. Getting Sidetracked by Trivial Questions
It’s no surprise that some of your listeners will raise questions that seem irrelevant to what you’re discussing. The reason might be because they’ve misunderstood the topic, or they might just want to clarify a certain idea that you’ve covered. If you encounter this kind of question, English Teacher Artur Pivovarov mentions a few answers that you can use: “Can we talk about that on another occasion?” or “That’s interesting, but I’d prefer not to answer that today.” Such scenarios happen at some point, but you shouldn’t allow these certain kind of queries to dominate the entire Q&A forum. This is to avoid ruining your performance and confusing other audience members.
Accommodating every question won’t help you make things clearer. Worse, doing it might lead you and your audience astray. Before anything else, make sure to tell your listeners that you’ll be entertaining questions after your pitch. This is to let you finish the entire pitch and prevent you from getting caught up by misleading queries.
Filter every question that comes up, and answer only relevant questions to save time and focus on your main points. Always go back to your main objective to guide you all throughout your speaking engagement.
3. Being Untruthful to Your Audience
While careful and in-depth preparation enables you to handle Q&A with ease, there will always come a time when unexpected questions will come to light. According to speaker and trainer Gilda Bonanno, when someone from the crowd raises a certain question that you think you can’t answer, don’t hesitate to admit it. After all, it would be much better to tell the truth than to provide false arguments that might affect your credibility as a presenter.
Although this scenario happens when you haven’t researched enough for your topic, it can also occur when you can barely understand the question being asked. In this case, you can tell them that you’ll address that question once you know the right answer and give you time to conduct a follow-up research. However, you need to think of other ways on how to deliver it in a more decent approach. Instead of merely saying “I don’t know,” you can say something like “Thanks for bringing that up. I think I’ll have to look after my references and check other resources to answer that question.”
Showing your interest to clarify certain ideas after the entire session can make a difference in convincing your listeners that you’re willing to provide them with fact-based answers, not just plain opinions. Don’t leave your audience hanging and misguided. Rather, give them something they can remember without lying. This is to avoid putting your integrity in question and losing your audience’s trust.
Understanding these points allows you to avoid mistakes when you answer your audience’s questions. This helps you maintain your credibility and professional look as you address them graciously and rightfully.
While it’s good to cover all possible questions in your pitch without the need for any clarifications, there’ll always be some listeners who’ll make their way to give feedback. Given that your time is limited to present your message, it’s important to prepare for possible questions to help you provide clearer and more concise answers.
When entertaining audience feedback, maintain your performance by letting your speech tone and body language show you’re interested and willing to answer any questions.
Since your entire performance depends on how you successfully start and end your pitch, you shouldn’t neglect how this section completes your pitch’s success.
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Bonanno, Gilda. “Public Speaking: Six Mistakes to Avoid When Answering Questions.” SelfGrowth.com. n.d. www.selfgrowth.com/articles/public-speaking-six-mistakes-to-avoid-when-answering-questions
Fairweather, Alan. “9 Tips for Handling Public Speaking Questions.” Lee Hopkins. n.d. www.leehopkins.com/9-tips-for-handling-public-speaking-questions.html
Pivovarov, Artur. “Presentation Skills. Unit 8: Dealing with Questions.” SlideShare. May 1, 2012. www.slideshare.net/ArturPivovarov/unit-8-12763217