The magic preparation tip to be prepared for any presentation challenge

Have you ever been interviewed or had a Q&A session after a conference speech?

I vividly remember the scene after one of my first professional speeches on leadership and life balance. The speech went well, but then came the Q&A.

“Lars, what is in your view the best company when it comes to Life Balance?”

My reply was neither super-quick witted nor very insightful.

“Well,” I began awkwardly, “You know, my current employer…”. I did not leave the best impression.

After my speech I reviewed some senior corporate executives on TV, who always seem to have all the answers ready. Have you ever wondered how senior level politicians and business leaders can answer almost any question, no matter how detailed or specific?

For example: Interviewer: “What is the impact of oil on your business in Argentina?”

Executive: “Ah, John, this is a great question, let me explain, the impact is such that…”

Are they smarter and more knowledgeable than the rest of us? No, the secret is that they have a system for answering. They have a list of FAQ’s with key answers that they regularly study. Senior politicians and executives have support staff who prep and brief them on the hot issues, and who have a list of company/party position answers of up to a hundred questions. Then once a week or even once a day the list gets updated with the top 10 hot topics or so.

What can be learnt from this approach, even if you do not have a department/staff ready?

  • Before a (big) meeting, ask yourself: what are the top 5 questions that might come up? We know the typical questions of e.g. the General Manager or of the Finance Director? ‘ What’s the background? What is the payoff? What is the impact on profit margin? Etc.
  • Practice an important presentation with a friend, coach or spouse. Then ask them: What questions come to mind? What would you ask me? Note down your answers.

When conducting a Q+A session after your team meeting or presentation, your answers will then be concise and to the point. A delivery tip: of course don’t repeat your answers verbatim.

And if a totally new question is asked– don’t panic. Answer it spontaneously, or say you will get back, then research your answer…and keep on building you FAQ list.

Applying this method will help you sharpen your topic. And it will also give you an appearance of ‘magic’ and being on top of things. (Thinking about FAQ’s is the ultimate version of ‘putting yourself in the shoes of your audience’).

Building an FAQ list has helped me greatly. Have you made any experiences with this? I look forward to learning about them.

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