Ah, Q&A. The “question and answer” portion of your presentation, where anything can happen!
Instead of dealing with a Q&A hog, let’s say someone in your audience asks you a brilliant question. It’s timely and topical! It’s directly related to your content! At this point, your answer can fall into three categories.
1. Hey, I know all about that!
2. I don’t know, but I can find out.
3. I don’t know.
Each category comes with its own set of challenges. Let’s explore each.
I know all about that! On its face, this category seems easy to answer, but it’s not. In a Q&A, you’ll need to be brief. You must curb any tendency to give a comprehensive, long-winded answer. Being brief can be difficult when you know something thoroughly. Deliver a concise and concrete answer, then move on to the next question.
I don’t know, but I can find out. Category two is a little easier. Your answer can be something like, “I don’t know, but I know I can find out. Give me your contact information, and I can get the answer to you after the presentation.” Move to the next question or closing, then follow up with the questioner when you said you would.
I don’t know. Category three should be the easiest of all. It contains 3 of the 4 short statements that lead to wisdom. You can say one to three of them, as appropriate. Practice saying this out loud, every day.
“I’m sorry. I don’t know. Does anyone else know?”
But why is “I’m sorry. I don’t know. Does anyone else know?” so difficult for so many presenters to say? I suspect it’s because they feel because if they are leading a discussion, they simply MUST know everything about it., or at least appear to.
But remember, you’re only leading the discussion. You’re not monopolizing it. You’re not expected to know everything. And no one likes a know-it-all.
Consider the four statements that lead to wisdom:
“I don’t know” is one of the four statements that leads to wisdom. Practice saying it every day. It can help ease any discomfort you may feel when tempted to pontificate on a subject you know nothing about. Audiences will appreciate your honesty and simplicity. It’s refreshing.
“I need help” is the second statement that leads to wisdom. Ask for help when you need it. “Does anybody else know?” might yield a helpful response from your audience or allies. If no one else answers, you might feel inspired to smile and say, “It looks like I’m not alone in not knowing the answer to your question!”
“I’m sorry” is the third statement that leads to wisdom. You may or may not feel inclined to preface your “I don’t know” with “I’m sorry”. If you’re not sorry, don’t say you are. If you are, do so.
Fittingly, “I was wrong” is the fourth statement that leads to wisdom. And it’s the one statement you won’t have to say during your presentation if you answer difficult questions truthfully and concisely.
Outside of Q&A, practice saying the four statements that lead to wisdom:
I don’t know.
I was wrong.
I need help.
Get comfortable saying these phrases. If you want to be happy and wise, you’ll be saying them a lot in a lifetime! Beyond wisdom, you’ll gain empathy and understanding through regularly saying these phrases.
Good luck on your next Q&A!
For your consideration: I go over responding to difficult questions in more detail in my Crisis Communications course at LinkedIn Learning. It’s under the section: “Developing Statements”.
Sometimes, voice typing can come in handy for really unexpected reasons!
It’s October 1, and it’s freezing. My poor fingers are now cramped from typing in a cold room all morning.
Google Voice Typing to the rescue! I’ll open up Google Docs, activate voice typing, and talk through a first draft.
I can always go back in and edit this first draft with my fingers later. But for right now, I’ve got deadlines to meet. I can’t let cold hands stop me from writing!
There are three other great reasons to use voice typing instead of finger typing for a first draft:
You talk faster than you type. With voice typing, you can increase your total word count.
You shut off your internal editor. When you talk, you resist the temptation to edit yourself as you’re talking.
You reduce distractions. You’re not goofing around on social media or opening up another tab on your browser. You’re talking.
I find myself using voice typing a lot now. I get 97% accuracy with no special equipment. I just use the mic that comes with my $320 laptop.
No big whoop. In the olden days, you needed a special microphone and pricey software. Now, you can probably just use equipment you have on hand.
Voice recognition is getting better all the time. It makes sense.
Think about how many of those Google Home devices have been in use over the past year. Or how many times people use their Android devices to say “OK, Google” — then use their voices to issue a command.
Google is drawing on an enormous amount of data to be able to understand a wide variety of voices. I expect Google’s accuracy will only get better over time.
Cortana and Alexa and Siri? If they work for you, great. But they don’t work for me.
In my experience, Cortana, Alexa, and Siri are far slower and less accurate than Google. And this makes sense: these services aren’t drawing from the vast amount of voice data that Google continues to collect.
If you haven’t checked out voice typing in a while, give it another try. You may find that it works better than you ever expected!
(And as the weather gets colder, I’ll probably use voice typing even more.)
Some people feel scared or nervous before they deliver a speech. To gain confidence, they might go somewhere private right before they speak and strike what’s called a power pose.
This is a broad, expansive gesture like putting your arms over your head and looking up. It’s a classic pose of someone who just won!
Someone who’s victorious. A champion!
Or they might stand with their hands on theirs hips while looking up. Just like a superhero! Strong, confident, large and in charge!
And these kinds of expansive poses are a form of warm up exercise. You can gain emotional energy from putting your body into these types of postures that make you feel more powerful.
Huddling and crouching? Those are classic postures we adopt when we feel scared or submissive.
Huddling and crouching poses send a message to your brain to feel afraid. Using broad gestures sends a message to your brain to feel confident.
And while the science on power posing isn’t exactly clear right now, consider this: warm-up exercises have been a part of theater tradition for a long, long time. That’s because the warm up exercises you perform off stage can help you project the emotional energy you want to portray onstage.
Power posing is actual a riff on an old acting technique. It’s a simple but powerful warmup exercise. And it’s one that’s worth trying.
After all, when you’re performing on stage or in front of a camera, you need to put out about 25 percent more energy than you might do in a normal, everyday conversation.
If you’re just being ‘yourself’ on camera — and you don’t project a little more emotional energy that you normally would, you’re probably going to come across as lifeless and flat.
Actors often do warmups before they go on stage.
Professional performers know it’s way easier to come down from an amped up emotional state than it is to try to ramp up to a heightened emotional state.
So if you don’t believe in the science of power posing, why not take a centuries old tip from the world of acting and performance?
Get yourself a ritual. Try some warmups before you hit the stage.
Look at it this way. You have nothing – zero – to lose.
And best of all, you might be delighted by the results you achieve with a few simple warmup exercises before your next speech or presentation. Give them a try. Let me know how power posing works out for you.