Close-up Of Black Q&A Text On Wooden Block

Q & A at the end of your presentation or speech is a vital opportunity for clarification, it enables you to engage with your audience, but all too often it is wasted.  

In this article, I will share how to leave your audience with clarity, understanding and an ITCH, an appetite for more. 
I will share how to use Tactical Empathy to get closer to making your audience members feel that you have been speaking to them.  

So you get to the end of your presentation and say those foreboding words “Does anyone have any questions?” 

If anyone does ask any questions there is always the chance that they could be tough. 

If no one asks any questions, it leaves that awkward silence at the end with the time allotted. 

AND what if someone asks a question that you can’t answer… HELL! 

So, you’ve reached the end of your presentation or speech and just as any rock band is duty bound to give an encore, you have to ask THE question. 

Does anyone have any questions?” 

Now, you’ve been working on this for ages and so you are sure that you have covered everything, but you have to ask. You have seen heads nodding throughout your presentation, but you MUST ask. 

Then… silence! 

Good! You say I’ve done my job. Take the credit and leave. 

WRONG! 

A common misconception is that Q&A is about answering questions. It is, but it’s about so much more than that. Q&A is about clarification, when your audience has understood less than 100%, which is always. 

BUT…

Q&A is a golden opportunity to plant your ideas, your proposal deep in the minds of your audience and you cannot expect them to do that without engaging. You have presented all your charts, your PowerPoint slides, you have been amusing and animated but you still have one more chance to attach your ideas to their ideas. 

You ask for questions and quite often, you will get none. People are often reluctant to display their lack of understanding, especially if they think everyone else has understood perfectly well. People often think that they are the only one that didn’t get it. And so, they keep quiet. 

Create an ITCH 

People also don’t ask questions because your idea hasn’t whetted their curiosity. They have listened and understood fairly well but they can’t grasp its application to their business, profession or life. You have failed to create an itch. An itch is the feeling you get when you listen to a good idea then need to apply it, to see if it works, you need to scratch that itch. 

For everyone who leaves without an itch, you have lost a chance to influence. You have failed. 

So how do you create an ITCH? 

You need to turn the Q&A on its head. You need to ask your audience questions. Now, many public speakers do this, they pepper their speeches with questions to the audience. These usually take the form of question tags, you know? They make a statement like …and we’ve all done that, haven’t we? This tactic is effective in motivational speeches and sermons… can I get an Amen? They are very effective at maintaining attention, but they only create a fairly low level of focused attention, useful when you need your audience to leave with strong feelings but little detail. 

If your aim is to plant an itch, you need detail. 

Now, we must assume that you know something about your audience, they are there for a business development course, marketing strategies, self help, they are teachers trying to learn how to deal with a class of unruly 4th graders. Whatever it is, you will know the profession, market, demographic of the majority of your audience. In a boardroom, you will know even more and this technique still applies. 

This is applying Tactical Empathy to learn more about them, learn their needs and be better equipped to hone platitudes to actionable advice. 

Start by fielding a simple question  

“How many of you work in an inner-city school?”

The question has no judgmental overtones, it is a fact. You will get a show of hands.  

Don’t ask accusing questions like  

“How many feel that their staff doesn’t do as they’re asked?” 

This question implies fallibility and raising a hand will constitute a confession.  

Then, if your audience is large, close this down to more specifics  

How many feel that mornings are the most difficult time of the day?”

Everyone has a most difficult point of the day, no biggy!  

Then pick a volunteer and ask them  

“How could you apply what we’ve discussed today to your morning schedule?” 

 NOW STOP!  

Before you ask this question, there is one of the most important questions… EVER! 

“What is your name?” 

“So, Bob. How do YOU think this can be applied?” 

Bob has been asked HOW, not whether and he will give his take on what he has understood, which will be pretty representative of the audience. Bob will interpret its application to his colleagues, it will become BOB’S idea and thus a peer assessed proposition. 

After Bob has finished, you will thank Bob, by name and paraphrase his idea, mentioning his name. 

Bob says that it would work for him by… 

Then, 

“Thank you Bob. Wow, that was a great take on it, I’m really learning here!” 

If he has diverted from your original message. This is also Tactical Empathy, you are learning more about the needs of your audience. 

If he has nailed it, 

“So would that be useful to you, Bob?”

Bob’s affirmation will endorse your idea and most of the audience will by now be frantic to find an application in their working day. 

If you have a large audience, you can repeat this question, remembering to ask the name and credit the comment. Use the name 3-4 times, don’t overdo it! 

Michael Sandel, a Harvard Philosophy professor is a master of this and he fills vast auditoriums. Check him out. 

Then, continue with your presentation. You can repeat this around every 10 minutes or after a complicated part of your presentation. 

If you have time you can then enter a traditional Q&A at the end of your speech and you will be sure to get much better qualified questions and your audience will leave thinking about practical applications for your ideas.

They will leave with an ITCH! 

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