Some entrepreneurs are great at presenting and terrible at Q&A. Some are the opposite. It is important to shine during both portions of a pitch. A quality presentation shows that you understand your business and can explain it well. A quality Q&A session shows how you process and respond to challenges and gives a glimpse of your personality.
These tips are primarily for entrepreneurs that are presenting their business plans to investors, but many of these concepts apply for other Q&A scenarios – sales presentations, partner presentations, etc.
- Answer the Question. Seems obvious, but too many entrepreneurs ramble and try to use Q&A as a way to extend their presentation and squeeze in more information
- Be Concise. Try to answer the question in 1-2 sentences. Give them a short, concise answer that stands on its own. If they want more information, they will ask for it. Make sure you immediately give them an answer and then you can give them supporting information if needed. Don’t start with a bunch of background information that leads up to the answer.
- Don’t ramble. If someone asks a question and has a puzzled look on their face, don’t just ramble until they cry "mercy". Ask them "Did that answer your question?”.
- Practice. Sit down with your team and write up 30 questions that might be asked. You know your business and the holes and risks, so you know what questions you will get. Then prepare tight answers for these questions and practice delivering them. If you do this, you will be prepared for 90% of the questions you will receive.
- Don’t be defensive. Too many entrepreneurs make Q&A into an argument because they feel they have to defend their business. Be confident, but flexible. They are going to ask some challenging questions that poke holes in your business. Address them without being stubborn.
- Know your audience. Do your homework on who will be in the audience. Know their career, their education, the deals they have done. This will help you understand why they asked certain questions as well as how to answer them. It will also help you build a relationship with them. And you will impress them at how prepared you are when you toss out something like… “I know you recently did a deal with XYZ so you understand that…”
- Stroke their ego. You might have some people in the audience that want to ask a tough question just to prove how smart they are. Give them the stroking they need by acknowledging their expertise. “You have a lot of experience in this field, so you already know…”
- Don’t start a statement with “honestly”. This makes it seem that you have been lying to them the entire time, but this next statement is going to finally be truthful.
- Don’t say “good question”. If you tell one person “good question” and you don’t say it to the next person that asked a question, you offend them because you didn’t think their question was good enough to be labeled as a “good question”
- Take notes. You probably have some smart people in the room and you can learn something from each question they ask. At least pretend that you are listening and want their feedback… take notes. This shows that you are coachable, and open-minded and that you value their opinion.
- Don’t be a know-it-all. It is OK if you don’t have the answer to every question. In fact, it is quite refreshing to hear an entrepreneur say “I’m not sure about XYZ, but I’ll look into it and get back with you.” It shows they are human and willing to learn.