Q&A (questions and answers) is a great way to break up a speech and make sure you and your audience are thinking in the same direction.

However, I often see my clients, when giving an answer, give answers that are too long.

The result is that they become less and less sure they are answering the question, and the audience forgets what the question even was. Everyone in the room starts feeling lost.

So here’s my suggestion: Keep your answers short. Try saying less than you think is necessary, and let the audience help you figure out what to talk about.

When you do this, maybe you’ll feel like your first answer is incomplete. Maybe you will feel like the followup question is so obvious your audience will think you’re stupid because you don’t just go right ahead and answer it.

If you’re nervous about that, try saying something like, “…And that’s the situation. Perhaps you’re wondering what we’re going to do about it….” Then pause and look at them with your palm raised.

Usually when you pause like that your audience will just look at you and nod (“Yes, that’s what I was wondering.”). Or, if they have a different kind of question, they’ll interrupt you and say, “Actually, I was wondering something else.”

Either way, when you proceed you will know they are listening, and you will avoid that uncomfortable and distracting thought, “Am I talking about the right thing?”

About Matt Krause

Matt began his professional life as an import buyer, and since 2006 has been teaching companies how to connect with their investors and clients better. His clients work for companies like Allianz, 3M, P&G, Citibank, and Reckitt Benckiser. He also walked across Turkey and wrote a book about it.