Whether you’re presenting to a handful of people or hundreds, taking questions from the audience may be an effective way to get them engaged, share your expertise, generate ideas, or ensure they understand your key points.
But just like your presentation, any Q&A session also takes planning and preparation. Based on our presentation coaching expertise, here are three options for how and when to incorporate Q&A into your next presentation, along with potential upsides and downsides:
- Take questions throughout your presentation. Tell people they can interrupt you throughout the presentation to ask questions as they come to mind. The upside: People don’t have to remember their questions, and they can immediately clarify points or specific issues. The downside: It can take your presentation off track or off time, if people ask irrelevant questions, too many questions, or questions that you’ll cover later. If you choose this option, you’ll need to effectively manage the time. This strategy may be best used for longer presentations or training courses.
- Take questions at defined points of your presentation. Tell people you will have an opportunity for questions at designated points in your presentation (e.g., in the middle and end). The upside: It’s a compromise between having questions throughout and only having them to the end. You can also decide how long to take questions during each break in your presentation to better control the timing. The downside: It may interrupt the flow of your presentation, depending on the topics.
- Take questions at the end of your presentation. Tell people you plan to save “X” amount of time at the end of the presentation to take their questions (and then make sure you do it). You can encourage people to write down their questions as they think of them, during the presentation so they don’t forget to ask at the end. The upside: You can seamlessly present all your key messages, without any interruptions. The downside: You may not get to everyone’s questions or some may walk away without getting their messages clarified. You can work around this possible pitfall by sticking around after the session and/or offering an opportunity for participants to submit questions to you and then committing to answer them within a certain timeframe.
Remember: No matter what option you select, let the audience know upfront how and when they can ask questions! In a future post, we’ll share how to prepare for any type of Q&A session to make the most of it.