Picture this: You spend hours working your presentation, and when you are in front of the room you gracefully move through your power point slides and visual aids. After concluding a dynamic talk through your complicated content its time for you to facilitate a discussion on your topic. You ask the first question, and no one answers… it is so quiet that you think you hear a cricket in the back of the room.

First of all, don’t worry. This silence is a powerful tool. It gives your audience time to think of a thoughtful answer and often times it is shorter than you realize. How you handle the Q&A period of a presentation is crucial to your credibility. It can influence your audience, allow you to gauge their emotional response to your talk, and elicit interaction to further cement the information that you have passed along.

Preparing for facilitating the discussion after your core presentation is just as important as readying your content before getting up to speak. Since you can’t always predict what you will be asked or how the audience will respond to your questions, below are some tips to help you get the most from your audience interaction during a Q&A session:

  • Ask open-ended versus closed questions
  • Prepare for difficult questions and hidden agendas
  • Wait 3 to 7 seconds before answering a question
  • Throw questions back to the audience that may be difficult or polarizing

Finally, remember, while that silence seems like a long time to you – it feels much shorter to your audience