Where Should You Put the Q & A in Your Presentation?

Presenter at Anne Frank House in Amsterdam

Question: Where should you put the question and answer portion of your presentation?

A. The beginning

B. The middle

C. Any place you sense it works for the audience

D. All of the above

I grade on an easy curve. No matter which answer you chose, you’re right.

Q & A does a lot of for you

The Q & A is a great tool to better understand  your audience, learn what audience members know, and understand your audience’s point of view.

It gives the audience a break, allows you to debrief and find out how much of the material the audience absorbed and understood.

It’s also a great tool for getting your audience involved and engaged in your presentation.

Where you shouldn’t put the Q & A

There is only one place you shouldn’t put your Q & A: the very end of your presentation.

I was reminded of this last week during a trip to Amsterdam. My wife and I visited the Anne Frank house. Powerful, moving story of a young girl who hid for two years with her family from the Nazi’s in a small living space behind a warehouse.

The presenter was outstanding.

She used a high-touch, low-tech approach, pulling photos off a large magnet board behind her to move the audience through the timeline of Anne Frank’s life. At the end of a spellbinding half an hour, the presenter looked out at the audience and said, “That concludes our presentation. Are there any questions?”

No one raised a hand or said a word.

The presenter waited. And waited.

The silence got awkward.

The problem with a Q & A close

That’s the danger of closing a presentation with a question and answer session. If there aren’t any questions, or if the Q & A session is a dud then even the best presentation ends on a flat note, feeling off-key.

If the presenter had put the Q & A just before her close, when she saw no hands raised, she could have moved smoothly into her close, the story of how Anne Frank’s father, Otto Frank, chose to leave the Anne Frank house empty of furniture to remind everyone of all the Nazi’s took away and of how many people, like his daughters and his wife, never returned to their homes.

Always have a strong close prepared for your presentation.

Be flexible; be prepared

If the Q & A session ahead of it sizzles, you can adjust on the fly and let that stand as the close. But if you don’t have a close prepared and you rely on the Q & A as your close, you run the risk of even a sensational presentation feeling off-mark at the end.

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