• Barb Mayfield

5 tips to prepare for questions


hands raised in an audience to ask a question

Does anticipating the Q&A portion of a presentation fill you with dread? It doesn’t have to. This tip series provides 5 tips for mastering the Q&A and is an update of Tip Series #8. It is based on content found in Chapter 36 of Communicating Nutrition: The Authoritative Guide, which is titled, “Strengthen Communication by Effectively Responding to Questions.” I had the privilege of authoring this chapter along with Marianne Smith Edge, MS, RDN, LD, FAND, FADA and Katie McKee, MCN, RDN, LD.


Next month, Katie and I will be sharing this content and more in the second webinar in the Successful Communicator Series for the Dietitians in Business and Communication practice group of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Learn more about the webinar at the link at the end of the article.


Master the Q&A with these 5 tips:


Tip #1 Questions demonstrate audience interest Speakers often shy away from the Q&A and hope their call for questions is met with silence. Fear no more, because when audience members eagerly ask questions it shows they are interested in learning more. The Q&A session provides an excellent opportunity to eliminate confusion, elaborate on evidence, and emphasize key points. Embrace the Q&A, don’t fear it!


Tip #2 Plan for questions Provide a time and process for asking questions. The Q&A is often at the conclusion of a speech, but questions can also be solicited throughout a presentation. Use one or more methods that encourage all audience members to participate such as raising hands, coming to a microphone, a phone app, or collecting index cards. Plan to follow with closing remarks.


Tip #3 Listen first and well The first step in effectively responding to questions is to listen. As Chapter 36 in Communicating Nutrition: The Authoritative Guide states, “Really listen. Pay attention to the question, the entire question, without formulating an answer.” Listening demonstrates respect, promotes understanding, and accounts for verbal and nonverbal cues. Listen first. Listen well.


Tip #4 Pause, repeat, upgrade if needed Before answering, organize your thoughts, and if needed, repeat the question to be certain you heard it correctly and to benefit other audience members. If a question is confusing, overly complex, inappropriate, or unrelated, seek to improve the question. This is a proven method for dealing with difficult questions. Create a win-win-win for questioner, speaker, and audience.


Tip #5 Answer, elaborate, summarize A well-thought-out response includes a succinct answer using clear language, one piece of supporting evidence or an example, and a summary to tie the answer to a key point. Use the Q&A to clarify and emphasize the main ideas presented in a way that addresses the audience’s needs. With practice and preparation, the Q&A can be a high point of a presentation.


You can download the free tip sheet here: https://www.nutritioncommunicator.com/tip-sheets


Chapter 36 in Communicating Nutrition covers strategies for dealing with 7 different types of difficult questions. A previous post covered strategies for dealing with “I-Don’t-Know” questions: https://www.nutritioncommunicator.com/post/questions-lead-to-greater-understanding


Another type of difficult question is the rambling or long-winded question. What do you do? First, a very long question is likely a mini speech in which the participant is giving their opinion about the topic and possibly not be asking a question at all. If this is the case, the audience will appreciate a presenter who graciously “interrupts” with, “I appreciate your perspective; in the interest of time I need to ask, did you have a question?”


Practice and prepare for the Q&A as part of your presentation rehearsal. Think about your audience. Anticipate questions they are likely to pose. Practice responses to anticipated questions. If your Q&A is at the end of your presentation, follow it with a strong closing statement that emphasizes your main point and gives a powerful takeaway message.


Interested in the webinar? Learn more here: https://www.eatrightstore.org/dpg-products/dbc/practices-that-can-make-or-break-success-in-designing-and-delivering-communications-connect-for-suc


“The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.” ~ Thomas Berger, American novelist


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