How to give a killer presentation | Handling the Q&A

Written By: G. Riley Mills

One of the big keys for how to give a killer presentation is how well you answer questions. If you nail the message delivery, but can’t effectively answer the questions, that’s all your audience will remember. To see a real world example, watch two tech titans – facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs – answer the same question during the 2010 D8 conference, “Why are you making me take steps to protect my information?” Zuckerberg sweats profusely. His answers have a ton of verbal viruses – ums and uhs. He’s uncomfortable. And he offers a half-baked apology at the end. The reporter, Kara Swisher, lets him off the hook by changing the focus to his hoodie. Steve Jobs, in contrast, is calm, comfortable and collected. He starts with a positioning statement, follows it with a belief statement and transitions into a relatable story. He uses strong intentions – calm, reassure, educate, and empower – which are reflected in varied vocal dynamics (pace, vocal tone) and body language (strong eye contact, hand gestures, facial expressions, leaning in, nodding) to successfully answer the question. Handling a question and answer session is a form of impromptu speaking. Unless you know what questions are going to be asked ahead of time, you have to be ready for anything. This means anticipating challenges, skepticism, resistance, or push back to the particular plan or strategy you are presenting.

How to give a killer presentation | Murder Board

The best way for how to give a killer presentation and prepare for anything is to go through a Q&A gauntlet called a “Murder Board.” The term originated in the U.S. military, specifically from the U.S. Pentagon, but is also used in academic and government appointment contexts, and is commonly used in business and politics to help people get ready before a big meeting or debate. Here’s how a Murder Board works. As we highlight in The Pin Drop Principle, one sets up a simulated environment and colleagues role-play actual audience members who will ask the likely “gotcha” questions. The underlying idea: better to give the wrong answer in front of the murder board and fix it than to blow the answer in front of the audience. For a real world example of this practice in action, read NY Times financial reporter Andrew Ross Sorkin’s book, Too Big To Fail, or watch the HBO Films movie adaptation. In September 2008, the American economy was in free fall. As the financial industry teetered on the brink of collapse, Congress wanted to know what caused the problem and who was to blame. To get answers, Congress ordered the heads of all the leading financial industries and government regulatory agencies to Washington D.C. to testify before the banking committee. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson was on an official trip to China, so his deputy Robert Steel took his place. Robert Steel was a confident and polished speaker with deep expertise with the financial institutions and the markets, but knew the stakes were high. His objective was clear: ensure the Treasury Department wasn’t blamed. Steel knew the banking committee would ask about the government’s role in the run-up to the collapse and specifically rescuing Bear Stearns. This was a difficult question and Steel knew that to answer it incorrectly could have devastating effects. So, round after round, hour after hour, the staffers peppered Steel with questions. He sharpened and refined his responses and delivery so he would appear relaxed and credible in front of the committee. Chairman Christopher Dodd opened the hearing with a scathing opening statement and began firing questions. As anticipated, they asked the Bear Stearns question. Steel’s preparation served him well. Calmly and deliberately, Steel answered the question. His body language was relaxed and his pace was measured, as if this were just another question in a series. His delivery gave no indication that the answer had been meticulously planned and crafted ahead of time, and all that came across to an audience of millions was this: a government official answering a very difficult question with poise and purpose. The ability to answer questions confidently and compellingly is essential to establishing or maintaining credibility in your audiences’ eyes. The way you respond to your audience during this interaction is every bit as important as how you delivered the actual presentation itself. To learn how to give a killer presentation and answer questions confidently, efficiently and clearly,

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