Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Murdochs and Brooks should beware the simple questions - often the Achilles Heel for business people facing Q&As

The grilling of the Murdochs and Rebekah Brooks by the Commons Select Committee promises to be riveting stuff, but it is likely to bring back vivid memories for any business people who have faced a Q&A session as part of a potentially career-changing presentation.

Just how do you prepare for for a Q&A session in which you know the questions are going to be penetrating and, quite possibly, hostile?  Clearly, time needs to be properly invested in the preparation process and you need to think of every type of question that might be asked.  Sample questions need to come from an objective viewpoint, so seek help from knowledgeable people from outside your immediate group.  The task then becomes one of sorting the potential questions into groups.  For almost any situation you will find that potential questions - however numerous - can usually be sorted into about four or five broad categories.  So, rather than attempting to develop, memorise and rehearse answers to, say, 136 different questions, you can develop, memorise and rehearse dialogue for a handful of categories that should cover almost anything you are asked.

Where many people fall down, however, is on the easy questions!  So much effort goes into preparing for the difficult questions that the easy ones tend to get overlooked.  For various reasons you will often be asked some pretty basic questions and you need to be word perfect and fully confident with these.  If you are not it will undermine your credibility for answering the more demanding questions, your confidence will take a knock, the questioners will 'smell blood' and then it gets really difficult!

Watch out Rupert, James and Rebekah for the simple questions.

Presentation skills coach Nick Fitzherbert is author of Presentation Magic, published by Marshall Cavendish

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