7 Q&A Mistakes that Will Cost You in the Boardroom

By Lou Solomon

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AVOID THESE Q&A MISTAKES!

You’ve just finished giving your prepared presentation to the executive team. You have covered your project timeline and milestones on attractive slides.

The senior leader, known for asking tough questions, looks puzzled. You open the floor for questions, and she says, “You’ve told us how you will implement the project–but you haven’t told us why. How does this fit with our strategic direction?” You freeze. You know the answer, but since you haven’t prepared to answer, you appear not to know.

woman leading a presentation while avoiding Q&A mistakes

Let’s face it. Q&A exposes you. Anyone can give a “pretty good” presentation if they’ve prepared and practiced. However, during the Q&A exchange, your preparedness and command (which people will mistake for your knowledge) are laid bare.

The challenge is to welcome the question, remain positive, speak from your experience, and respond concisely–no matter how much pressure you’re under. The good news is that you can learn to do this and have a significant advantage when you’re in the spotlight.

In this article, we will discuss 7 Q&A mistakes that cost your credibility and how to avoid them.

7 Q&A MISTAKES THAT WILL COST YOU

1. Don’t Go All In

Many people don’t put enough heart and grit into preparing for a high-stakes Q&A. Others understand the risk and the return. The risk is that you will gain low confidence from people who matter by being unprepared to answer questions. The reward is that genuine people who handle themselves with confidence and ease will gain the support they need to lift their team, project, and organization.

2. Don’t Bother With the Needs of Your Audience

It’s a big whiff to overlook who’s in the room. Consider who will support you and who will give you pushback. Reflect on the concerns of the COO, CFO, CHRO, or any leader your project will impact. Touch base with them before the meeting and ask what they need to know from you. They will support you in the meeting.

3. Read Through Your Notes & Don’t Practice Out Loud

Reading your notes will not give you the muscle memory to call upon the answers when it comes time to speak. Make a list of questions you anticipate, particularly the difficult ones, and practice answering them with a teammate. Submerge your psyche in the material until you can answer a complicated question with a fluid, simple answer.

4. Avoid Learning New Skills with the Q&A Tools

You can practice your presentations to your heart’s content—but you can never know what questions or objections may come your way afterward. For grace under pressure, learn the Q&A Tools for Pros: Pause, Acknowledge, Pivot, Restate Rationale. Here are the steps you can implement when a tricky question comes your way:

PAUSE

Wait a beat, take a breath, and consider the question. If you rush to answer, you may fumble. Silence can feel awkward, but your audience will appreciate your thoughtful response.

ACKNOWLEDGE

Acknowledge the implied complaint. For example, suppose you get the question, “Given the economy, how can you justify the insane expense of relocating the headquarters?” Acknowledge the concern and help ease the tension in the room:

  • I understand your concern.
  • I appreciate that point of view.
  • That’s a valid question.

PIVOT

Pivoting will help put you back on track:

  • Let me share the way we are approaching this…
  • What’s important to remember…
  • The most important thing I can stress…

RESTATE RATIONALE

Now you’re ready to repeat the rationale or critical message: “We will ultimately save on overhead, and the local government will provide financial incentives. This project will pay for itself by (date).”

person raising hand

5. Pretend You Know the Answer

If you don’t know, you don’t know. Nothing zaps the credibility you’ve built with the audience like trying to tap dance around without knowing.

Here are a couple of pivot statements that will help you get back on track when you don’t know the answer to a question:

  • I don’t know the exact number, and I’m happy to get that for you, but what I do know is that it has more than doubled.
  • I haven’t read that particular article, but the reports have been clear about this trend.

6. Let the Energy Run Out of the Room with the Final Question

Since the audience pays increased attention to the final minutes of your presentation, once you’ve wrapped up Q&A, use a strong closing statement. For example:

“Let me leave you with this. Now is the perfect time to relocate. In three years, we will have paid for the project! Thank you.”

7. Continue to Dread Q&A

You will need to change your attitude. Q&A gives listeners the chance to have an authentic experience with you, and it is more potent than your prepared presentation.

Shorten your walk through the slide deck and allow for more Q&A time. You will move your presentation into an open conversation with everyday language and your chance to demonstrate natural authority and credibility.

Best of all, your authentic speaking style will emerge when discussing a topic you genuinely care about. Listeners will see your ownership and commitment!

Conclusion

To excel in Q&A, you must understand your audience’s concerns and remain flexible, logical, and genuine. It’s an art that is worthy of your attention. Mastering Q&A will help propel your image as an authentic leader who surpasses the effectiveness of a mere presentation.

Do you have an upcoming presentation and need help practicing your Q&A to ensure you cover every detail? Contact us today to discuss setting up an individual development session with our experts.

Finally, ensure that your presentation before the Q&A is top-notch by honing your communication skills and authentic voice at one of our classes!

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