Join Judy Steiner-Williams for an in-depth discussion in this video Anticipating questions, part of Writing Speeches.
- The question and answer, usually called the Q&A, portion of your speech is one of those parts that might range from the speaker not asking for questions at all to using audience questions as the basis for most of the speech. Some speakers encourage the audience to ask questions at any time during the presentation, a sales presentation, for example. Some experts suggest that the speaker should ask for questions before the final, impactful ending, the logic being that asking for questions after the ending makes that ending less effective.
And others conclude the presentation, then ask for questions, which is probably the most common. Regardless of when audience questions are asked, a good speaker needs to anticipate what questions the audience might ask and outline answers for those, or at least think about how to answer those potential questions. In a five to seven minute prepared speech, you can't include everything, so you've chosen what you deem important to include, but you may have made an audience member curious about some comment you made, or another one may ask for clarification, or you may have an antagonist in your audience, one who will ask questions to try to contradict what you've said, and will offer a conflicting opinion disguised as a question.
Practice speakers will often prepare extra slides, containing information that will supplement their answers to anticipated questions. If you're able to practice your speech in front of a live audience, those friends or family members you've coerced to listen to you, have them ask questions. In fact, some of those questions may be so important to your overall topic that you might decide to rewrite portions of your speech to include some of those key answers. Being able to effectively answer questions during the Q&A makes you an expert, not just a speaker.
The more you know about the topic, the more confident you will be that you can answer any question asked. Let's look at some anticipated questions and prepared answers about dog grooming. Does the necessary equipment and guidelines differ for big dogs and small dogs? Your answer might be this. Any special hints if my dog just hates being groomed and struggles all the time? You said that clippers can range in price. Does paying more guarantee that I can groom my dog better? You're suggesting that we save dog ownership money by grooming our pet at home.
It sounds like a messy, tiring procedure. Why not suggest we save money by buying food in bulk or generic dog food and treats? Sounds to me like a much easier way to save money. Now those Q&A rock climbing questions with possible responses. You've stressed how safe rock climbing can be, but I'm sure people get hurt all the time rock climbing. Do you have any statistics on that? What equipment would you suggest buying if a person has never rock climbed before and doesn't know if he'll enjoy it? I'd hate to invest in the equipment and then not want to continue.
Do indoor climbing facilities have to meet state requirements and carry insurance? In other words, how can I be sure I go to one that follows the correct protocol? I've seen programs like Ninja Warriors on television and they always talk about the successful competitors having a rock climbing background. How strong or fit does a person have to be to start rock climbing? Someone may ask something you've already answered, "What type of flat surface?" for the grooming speech, or "Can climbing shoes be rented?" for the climbing speech. Answer the question again, rather than saying, "As I said," or "If you were listening, you would know." You might even be asked something that is totally unrelated to your presentation.
Be prepared. "Have you ever owned a parrot?" after the dog grooming speech, or "Have you ever been in a car accident?" after the rock climbing speech. Where did those questions come from? I recently read that the question, "What plans are in place to protect our town "from a dragon attack?" was asked at a city council meeting. Probably the best thing to do is acknowledge the question, answer briefly, and go on. "Dogs, a cat, even a snake once, but never a parrot." Or "No, but I did break my collarbone once on a dirt bike." Not sure how the council responded to the dragon question.
And there may be that occasional question you don't know the answer. Admit that you don't know and offer to find out. Ask for an email address so you can send the answer. Of course, you can't anticipate every possible question an audience member will ask, but the more you do, the better prepared you will be, and the more expert you will sound.
- Choosing a topic
- Composing a thesis
- Organizing the speech
- Outlining the body
- Finishing with a strong ending
- Incorporating research
- Adapting to different audience sizes, attitudes, and expectations
- Writing for different occasions
- Preparing notes and visuals