How Kissinger Managed the Q&A

Henry Kissinger once opened a press conference by saying:

Does anyone have any questions for my answers?

Clearly, he was prepared. You can be just as prepared too.

If you feel anxious about Q & A sessions following your presentations, you are not alone. Many presenters we coach often ask if we can offer advice that will help them handle questions more effectively.

Our advice is simple—but it works:

First, write down a list of potential questions your audience may ask.  Thinking through your answers in advance will give you more confidence during the Q & A session.

During the session itself, make sure you are the one leading the process, observing these simple steps:

  1. Establish eye contact with the questioner, acknowledging you are listening.
  2. Break eye contact and address the entire audience to bring them into the conversation.
  3. Repeat or paraphrase the question to make sure everyone in the room has the opportunity to hear it clearly.  Or, you can incorporate the question into your answer.
  4. Give a straight answer. In other words, begin with a short and direct response, then support it with the appropriate information—not the other way around.
  5. Check for satisfaction, as appropriate for the situation. One way to do this is by turning back to the questioner and asking, “Did I answer your question?”

Remember that Q & A sessions are an integral part of every presentation. The way you manage it speaks volumes about your credibility and your leadership, so don’t leave it to chance. Kissinger didn’t.

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