Many presenters fear Q&A sessions for a couple of reasons. One of them is loss of control. You give control over parts of the content away to the audience.
For example, sometimes it occurs that questions are really tough. They might even challenge you personally.
For most, the typical reaction on stage is to answer quickly. Silence in a conversation feels awkward, on stage even more so. When you’ve been attacked, just staying there, saying nothing, can make you feel embarrassed with all these people staring at you, wondering whether the attacker might be right. So, people feel like they might loose even more control when thinking up a good answer.
But … often, the quick answer is not the best answer. Also, it’s often not the most respectful answer.
Audiences really appreciate thoughtful answers, respectful answers. Answers that are not just a defense to an attack but a thorough assessment that provides a glimpse into who you are and how you think.
In this short video clip, Steve Jobs is attacked on stage with such a tough question.
It’s a direct attack on Jobs as a person, accusing him of not knowing what he’s talking about. Instead of firing back, he takes a long pause (as he often did in Q&A): 14 full seconds of silence, followed by another 6 seconds as he recognizes that his first attempt to answer the question wouldn’t have been the most respectful.
Jobs takes this question seriously, even though it’s highly personal. He takes his time to think up a respectful answer. One that allows a deeper look into how decision were made at Apple at that time. And the audience seems to really appreciate it.
Audiences don’t care for the quick answer. The media might care, but not your audience. Audiences care for thoughtful and respectful answers. And they grant you a lot of silence if that’s what you need to think up a great answer.
So, take your time!
You might not be able to control what questions are being asked. But you are always in control of your posture.