• Scott Stiefvater

Stop protecting your script and your status with Q&A.

Updated: Nov 25, 2020

It's pretty normal to have a question-and-answer period at the end of a presentation. It seems logical; if you take questions throughout your presentation you might get derailed and you might not have enough time to get through all of your content.

But is your content and the rails it is on really what's important?

The content-script

In the mainstream approach to presentations, we're told that careful planning of what we say and the order in which we say it is essential to success. So we make our slide progressions and rehearse our talk tracks. In other words, we make content-scripts.

The Q&A says to listeners suspend your reactions until I'm done reciting my script.

The speaker's status

The mainstream approach also tells us that listeners ask the questions and the speaker provides the answers. In other words, it implies a power dynamic in which the speaker is above the listener.

The Q&A says to listeners I am the expert here.

Your presentation = a conversation where you do more of the talking.

When it comes to talking, we are designed for conversations. As listeners, we can't suspend our reactions. Our listening mind constantly reacts to what is being said as it tries to create meaning and relevance.

Seeing presentations as a form of conversation in which one person does more of the talking changes almost everything. Here are just a few things it changes:

  • You come to your presentation with a plan, not a script.

  • You don't need to be the expert. You gain credibility as your listeners sense that you are in service to them.

  • You invite input from the audience when you sense it will benefit the conversation.

  • You ask for thoughts and reactions, not just questions.

  • You don't worry about getting through YOUR content. You focus on maximizing meaning and relevance for your listeners.

  • You welcome spontaneity. You don't avoid it.

  • Slides don't serve as a prompter. They serve as visual aids.

So, what exactly should you do for your next presentation and in lieu of the Q&A? The one thing NOT to do is to expect that a few techniques will get you far better results. Q&A is a custom embedded in the mainstream paradigm. To really change your results, you must change your paradigm.


© 2021 by Scott Stiefvater,

(anti) Presentation Coach


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