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”.
Perhaps the hardest part of telling a business story is resisting the temptation to finish your story yourself. I call this “The Power of Shhhhh.”
It’s where you stop talking. Be quiet. Let your story and its lessons sink in.
People hate a vacuum, and will often rush to fill it with their own conclusions. When people jump in at the end to tell you what they’ve learned from your story…and then recommend the next steps to take — you’ve told the right story to the right audience, at the right time.
The next time you tell a story, take your moment of silence. Try using the Power of Shhhhh to let your audience finish your story for you.
Being quiet can be a storytelling power move.
Laura Bergells is a professional story finder. She writes, coaches, teaches, and speaks. Check out her online courses at LinkedIn Learning.
If you’re a LinkedIn Premium or Lynda.com member, these courses are free! If you’re not a member, you can either become a member or buy each of these classes à la carte.
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.