Kline speaks ...
You just finished briefing the end-of-year spending plan to the new commander. You did a good job, but now comes the part you dread--questions from the commander and staff. Speakers often give good presentations only to do a poor job in the question-and-answer period that follows. What can you do to handle tough questions and give good responses?
Here are eight tips to help you prepare:
* Anticipate their questions. Experienced presenters often practice in front of "murder boards"--knowledgeable people who purposely ask difficult and demanding questions. Be careful not to get defensive. Tough questions here will prepare you for later.
* Project a positive, warm, polite, friendly image. Smile. Treat questioners the way you'd want to be treated if you were in their place. Convey the attitude that you welcome their questions.
* Restate the question to show you understand. This is especially important if the question is complex, or if it can't be heard by other people in the room. You might say something like, "So what you are asking is ..." or "Let me see if I understand your question. ... "
* Ask for clarification if you don't understand the question. Blame yourself, not the questioner, for your lack of understanding. Never make the questioner look bad. And even if it's a stupid question, treat it as though it were a good one.
* Keep the entire audience involved. Don't look only at the asker when answering the question; look at others, especially the commander and other senior staff members. Don't spend a long time answering a specific question that holds no interest for the commander and other key personnel.
* Make answers as short as possible, yet long enough to answer the question. Organize longer answers. For example, you might say, "Yes, we have three concerns about spending for the Global War on Terrorism. First.... "
* If you don't know the answer, and no one else in the room can help, promise you will get back to them ASAP. Then do it.
* Frame your answers so that they add supporting material to your points. "Yes, we are making sure we train all new resource advisors on day-to-day operations. Just last week, I met with all RAs to.... " See the question-and-answer period as an extension of your speech.
Remember, the question-and-answer period should enhance an informative briefing, not detract from it. Be prepared, and it will.
Dr. John A. Kline is a writer and a speaker living in Montgomery, Alabama. He is the director of the Troy University Institute for Leadership Development and a frequent presenter at ASMC National Professional Development Institutes. Visit his Web site at www.klinespeak.com.