The Q&A session: for many speakers, the part of a presentation they dread the most. It’s the part they can’t script, can’t control, can’t reduce to three terse bullet points and a cute photo of a baby using a computer.
Me, I love questions and conversation, and I encourage them throughout my sessions. For one thing, if someone’s confused about a point, or if I’ve said something way off the mark, I don’t want them either lost at sea or stewing in silence throughout the whole thing. And for another, if you’re engaging your audience actively from the outset, chances are a lot fewer minds will be wandering around the 20-minute mark.
One of the great things about social media is the way it’s transforming the audience/speaker relationship, with the rise of live backchannels on services like Twitter, and the evolution of supportive infrastructure like wikis that ensure the exchange of knowledge and ideas goes on well before the speaker gets on stage and long after they step down.
But that means the unpredictability and give-and-take of a Q&A are now happening throughout your speech. Just how you cope with it – and not only cope, but thrive – is the focus of The Backchannel, a great book by Cliff Atkinson. He has a number of suggestions that are well worth following: among them, taking regular “Twitter breaks” during your session; having another person monitor the backchannel and feed you questions to answer from the stage; creating an online hub to support your presentation; and distilling your key points into easily-tweeted slides.
Your voices have been heard! It’s back to hand-lettering – at least for the time being.