When a member of the audience asks a question, it is most likely because they are trying to better understand the subject that is being presented. As such, most of these questions usually fall into one of three categories: either the questioner did not fully understand what you just said, or they are looking to confirm that their understanding is indeed correct, or they are looking to expand on what you spoke about in order to go into more detail. Regardless of its category, questions are usually a sign that the audience is paying attention and willing to take the chance of potentially embarrassing themselves by asking the question.
To kick things off, let us cover a few useful tips when dealing with questions during a speech:
Engage with the audience throughout the speech. Try and avoid leaving Q&As to the end of your speech, instead, try to proactively encourage the audience to ask questions throughout the speech. Maybe break your speech into sections and ask if anyone has any questions after each section. You can also encourage the audience not to be shy during the speech and then actively engage them to ask questions throughout the speech.
Always acknowledge the audience. When someone from the audience asks a question, always do your best to acknowledge the questioner, even if you are planning upon answering a related issue during your speech. Acknowledging the questioner not only shows respect and that you value their time and input, but it also helps you understand if you need to cover something in more detail during the remainder of your speech.
Your speech is not about you. Instead, it is about your audience, their needs and conveying the message as effectively as possible. This means ensuring that you listen to the entire question and not hastily looking to respond before they finish. It also means being honest and authentic in your response. As this lends to the audience trusting you and helps give your speech more credit.
Bridge to the next question. After you have answered a question, it is useful to encourage others to keep the questions coming by providing a segue to the next question. You can do this by directing your response to the entire audience, after acknowledging the original questioner or by responding with a question of your own. Encouraging others to keep asking questions helps involve the audience, making them feel more engaged and improves the chances of them retaining information. Just try avoid making the speech a long Q&A session.
So remember that questions are important to a successful speech and we recommend you embrace them rather than avoid them. Your speech should be focused clearly on the needs of your audience. Engaging them via their own questions will help keep them involved and interested. Your audience will thank you for it! Next question? Seriously, if you have burning public speaking questions leave them below or contact us. If you have found this post helpful feel free to join our newsletter for monthly updates and discounts from the Institute of Public Speaking.