A speaker Q & A isn’t always right for every speech you give, but when the meeting planner asks if you will do one, take her up on it. A speaker Q & A session will keep you on your toes and get you to prepare even more than you planned on. I think that’s a good thing. If you’re the expert you should know that topic and not be rattled by the audience’s questions.

If you have to do a Q & A, here are a few tips to make it go smoothly:

  • Practice – Get a friend to sit through your speech and ask questions at the end. Get someone who is a tough critic who will ask the questions you might not have thought of. If you don’t know the answers then this is an opportunity to find them out before getting the question at the event. Get feedback from your friend to make sure you answered it completely.
  • Over-research – You’re the expert and should know this information like the back of your hand. This is a chance for you to read up on the latest news in your industry. I always like to find at least one bit of information that no one else has heard of. It might take a while to find that obscure reference, but it’s worth it. Your audience will be impressed and so will the meeting planner.
  • Keep it positive – It never, ever fails that once one person in the audience plays devil’s advocate, it brings down the vibe in the room. Then others start to chime in with negative comments and it seems to never end. If you see that happening, instantly make it positive and quickly move on to someone you think will be more uplifting. It’s okay to push it that way yourself. But do keep it positive or you’ll end the speech on a bad note and that’s all they’ll remember.
  • Use Notecards – I’m slightly hard of hearing, so I’m always afraid I won’t hear the questions from the audience. So I started giving them notecards in the beginning and at some point in the speech I ask them to write down any questions they have along the way, so we don’t have to stop the momentum. It’s also for me so that I don’t have to risk not hearing them. You can kind of pick and choose a little too if you get to a card you don’t have an answer for.

Some speakers dread the Q & A. I even know a very experienced speaker who won’t do them. I see them as a challenge. The worst that can happen is that you don’t have an answer. If that happens, you just say you really don’t know, but if they’ll give you their email you’ll get an answer for them as soon as possible. And the next time you won’t be stumped by that question.