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Monday, 4 July 2016

Member Blog: What to Do When No-One Asks Questions During Your Q&A

By Richard Barnes, Founder and Creative Director at Buffalo7

You reach the end of your presentation and ask, ‘does anyone have any questions?’, expecting several hands to shoot up. Instead, you’re met with blank stares and awkward silence.

It’s an uncomfortable picture, but one that presenters are exposed to on a regular basis. It can be embarrassing when no-one asks questions in your Q&A and it isn’t great for your credibility, but there are techniques you can use to recover control or prevent such a scenario entirely. The presentation designers at Buffalo7 have pulled together the best tips for rescuing your talk from Q&A radio silence.

1. Don’t Panic

It’s always disappointing when you’ve put time and effort into creating a quality presentation, only to have no-one pose questions on your topic. But understand that this doesn’t mean that you flopped.

Audiences might just need some more time to absorb your information fully, but often you just need to break the ice; a certain dynamic is set when you’re presenting, and being able to transition to a less formal back-and-forth is a valuable skill.

Don’t let an initial lack of questions throw you off. Stay cool and have a plan.

2. Bring Your Own Questions

A good way to lead off on a quiet Q&A session is to prepare some of your own ‘common questions’. These can be a great way of reinforcing your messaging with meaningful real-world context.

Say something like ‘a question I’m often asked about X is…’, then proceed to answer in a way that gives your audience the opportunity to acknowledge the value in what you’re saying. Speaking to real-world concerns is a great way of prompting responses.

3. Reiterate Your Message

When you’re faced with a lack of questions, there’s a temptation to end your presentation right there with a weak ‘thank you’. But hold your nerve to protect your professional cachet.

Another good option is to succinctly summarise your main points so that desired takeaways are properly connected and fresh in your audience’s minds.

Also, you should have some next steps prepared for your audience to take. Let them know what you want them to do with the information you’ve given them by delivering a strong call to action.

4. Frame the Conversation a Different Way

You’ll probably be able to anticipate what the hot-button topics will be ahead of delivering your presentation, so use them to your advantage. If no-one asks a question, be proactive in sparking audience discussions around the issues that matter to them most.

Pick some people sitting in the first few rows and ask them about their situations and the challenges they face, linking their responses back to your main topic. Show them how your message relates directly to their goals and fears.

5. Take Questions as You Present

Another route you can take is responding to questions as you move through your presentation. Doing so makes it more of a collaborative discussion and actually eliminates the need for a formal Q&A session.

Audience members can field questions as soon as they think of them and the speaker can make sure the everyone fully understands before moving onto their next point. But this approach isn’t without risk: pausing to take questions can fracture your presentation’s natural flow of information, while irrelevant queries threaten to drag you off-topic.

6. Collect During and Address After

Whether you should respond to questions during your presentation or dedicate time for them after really depends on your message, topic and audience. It’s up to you to weigh the risks and make an informed decision on what’s best.

That said, thanks of the proliferation of mobile devices, there are ways you can easily collect questions while you speak – without needing stop.

Buffalo7’s PowerPoint Design experts recommend creating your own Twitter hashtag and asking people to submit their queries using it, or taking advantage of a Q&A app like to crowdsource the best ones from your audience. This way, by the time the Q&A comes around, you’ll have a stack of questions ready to get the ball rolling.

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