Are flying zombie clowns afraid of themselves?
If the recent poll on America’s top fears is any indication, the answer is no…but what they do fear is public speaking. Rehearsals can provide a safety net for most presentations, but this net hits a snag when you add a Question and Answer session. Those Q&A’s can be a fantastic bridge between the audience and the presenter…or a cringe-inducing failure, especially when the speaker fumbles for words, comes off as defensive or just plain freezes.
Tip 1 – Acknowledge the Question.
People want to be heard. More specifically, they want to know that you, in fact, heard what they said. Acknowledgment phrases provide this reassurance, and Spaeth has put together a list of them here. She goes beyond the interview standards like, “That’s an excellent question” and “Thank you for bring that topic up” and offers alternates like:
“I have heard that.”
“Let me put that in perspective.”
“That’s a possibility.”
An added benefit of these short and truthful phrases is that they give the speaker time to craft their response. Not answer, but response, which leads us to…
Tip 2 – Don’t Answer the Question. Respond.
When speakers answer, they limit themselves to the question’s parameters – its framing, language, and sometimes, the speaker’s agenda. But when they approach their words as a response, they broaden their scope by thinking about what the entire audience needs to hear – not just the person asking the question. This puts them in control of the exchange and increases their impact.
Incorporating these 2 simple tips into your Q&A prep will not only raise the speaker’s comfort level, but also increase their effectiveness.
And if these don’t work, you can always have flying zombie clowns storm the stage. That’s something the audience will be talking about for years.