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Questioning the Q&A

Author Daniel Pink said he started to figure out “intuitively” as a speaker a few years ago that the traditional format of presentation followed by a Q&A was not the best way to end a session. Here's what he does instead.

Bestselling author — and frequent speaker ‚ Daniel Pink talks about how experience with the traditional format of following a presentation with Q&A and how — and why and when — tweaks it: 

  • “If I’m talking to a group of say, 100 or 150 people, I don’t like ending anything on Q&A — especially if I’m either the first or the last person in the conference. Everything we know about endings is that they are how people un-code things.
  • “You could do something that’s great and titillating and that people love for 45 minutes and then if you have 10 minutes of Q&A, and especially if the last question is really bad — or as is more typical in my case, the last answer is really bad — you suck all the oxygen out of the room.
  • “What I started doing, and I think it’s a pretty good practice, is, I like Q&A in certain circumstances. People want to hear other voices; it changes the rhythm. But I like to do the presentation, have the Q&A, and then I want to reserve three minutes to close — just to ensure that it ends with a rising sequence rather than a declining sequence. Get people leaving on a sense of uplift.
  • “How something ends is how people remember it. And so what I don’t like is someone who does a nice presentation — clearly worked hard on it — and then have to do 10 minutes of Q&A and then for whatever reason, it’s terrible. And then it sort of ends, ‘Okay, are there any more questions? Oh, it doesn’t look like it.’ You basically end with no one with their hand in the air, which suggests, ‘We are not at all interested in this anymore.’
  • “I think organizers should put the onus on the presenter and say, ‘We’re not going to end on a Q&A. You have three minutes to rap it all up, tell us what it’s all about, and get people out on a high note.’”

For more from Daniel Pink, read our July cover story, “Well-Timed.”

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