Master a question-and-answer session as comfortably as Katie Couric

Katie Couric shows that she's a question-and-answer session pro at BlogHer 2012.

Watching a video of Katie Couric’s lunch keynote at the BlogHer ’12 conference this month reminded me of several ways speakers can improve question-and-answer sessions. BlogHer co-founder Lisa Stone interviewed Couric for the session, and they also took questions from the audience.

These techniques made the session a success:

  • Be comfortable. You probably can’t sit in cushioned chairs like those on stage at BlogHer, but you could rest on a stool to present a more relaxed tone during the question-and-answer session in your presentation.
  • Gesture naturally. Couric’s enthusiasm shows in her hand movements. Don’t tie yourself down with a microphone that you have to hold.
  • Prompt questions. Avoid going into an interview cold. Stone mentioned to Couric “the multimedia format that you and I were discussing backstage.” When possible, talk with people in advance about possible topics. As you meet audience members before you present (and you should whenever possible), tell people when they raise a topic that could be a good question to address in front of the audience. You also can raise those questions yourself. Example: “Eli told me earlier about … and asked …” It appears that BlogHer also took questions in advance, because Stone referred to notes with questions from attendees.
  • Filter questions. With a tech-savvy audience, it was natural for BlogHer to have people tweet their questions. Stone gave instructions at the beginning of the session for how to mark questions with the appropriate hashtags and had someone texting them to her. That allowed BlogHer to pick the best questions, instead of leaving to chance who might raise a hand or go up to a microphone in the room. If going high-tech isn’t an option, pass out cards and ask audience members to write their questions for you. If possible, have an assistant read and organize the questions.
  • Wrap up with your message. Stone allows Couric to remind the audience about her new show by asking “Can you give us any hints on what we’re going to see starting September 10th?” Save time to have the final word.

Share your tips for question-and-answer sessions in the Comments section below!

[Image Source: BlogHer]

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