Avoiding the Silence: Using Index Cards for Q&A
Posted by Anni M.
Most business presentations end with a Q&A session, a time for the audience to ask all of the burning questions they’ve been holding back during the talk. It’s also a time for the presenter to elaborate on points that he didn’t have time for during his presentation. But often, the Q&A session falls flat. Sometimes the audience is embarrassed or caught off guard, other times a lackluster presentation has lost their attention or left them feeling tired and bored. Whatever the reason, there is nothing worse than a silent room.
I’ve given my fair share of presentations and I always dread the Q&A. It’s difficult to face a wall of silence with dignity. I take it personally: if you don’t have questions, I haven’t done my job. But that’s not entirely fair. Sometimes the audience just needs a little push.
It was after one such disastrous Q&A that I found my solution. A man approached me after my talk with the simplest suggestion: index cards. He explained the strategy and I immediately saw its wisdom. I took his advice. Before my next presentation, I put an index card and a pencil on every seat in the house. Before launching into my talk, I asked the audience to take a moment to think of one or two questions related to my topic, and to write them down. I also encouraged them to write down any questions that occurred to them during the presentation. When it was over, I had an usher collect the cards and I answered a bunch of questions at random from the pile. It was glorious!
These were high quality questions. They were well thought-out, thorough, and appropriate. They made me think on my feet, which I enjoy, and kept the audience interested: everyone stuck around to hear his or her question. I didn’t manage to get through all of them but I encouraged people with unanswered questions to get in touch via email. I ended up with a great email list on top of a successful presentation.
Engaging the audience is always a challenge. Often, business topics are dry and heady and it’s easy to ramble on in one’s own little spotlight. The index card strategy keeps the mind active. It requires some consideration before and during the presentation. These days I use this strategy with every presentation I give. I’m much more relaxed during the talk because I know the questions are coming. Having a little extra control gives me a lot of extra confidence.
As a Creative Communications Strategist, Victoria is known for her electrifying Keynote Performances™ and the transformational workshops and coaching sessions she creates for elite executives, high performing teams, thought leaders and entrepreneurs..