Who decided that during the Q&A portion of a presentation the automatic response to any question should be, “Great Question!”? In the last few months, I have noticed presenters defaulting consistently to this phrase. Here are some reasons why it seriously bothers me and why I recommend you avoid saying it:
- Not every question IS a great question and in fact some are emphatically NOT great. To respond that it is “great” is to insult your own and the rest of the audience’s intelligence. This is not to say that it is not your responsibility to respond to every question with your full attention and respect.
- When you start saying “great question” to every questioner, I actually wonder if you are really listening or if you are playing by a rulebook, in which case I start to question your authenticity, which means I wonder if I can trust you.
- Every audience has its share of people out in left field and so telling someone who has asked a kooky question that they asked a “great question” makes me question your judgment.
Now, Q&A is tricky and can undermine the best presentation preparation. Naturally this is because of the improvisational quality of the exchange. It is important to stay connected, interested, attentive and to listen carefully to what is being asked. Remember, it is about them, not you. This is a time when HOW you respond and listen says as much as the actual words that come out of your mouth, ie. open body language, eye contact, energetic interest in the people asking you questions. Here are a few phrases that you can sprinkle into your responses to acknowledge the questioner (and to give yourself a moment to prepare your response should you need it).
- “Thank you for asking that, I am sure this question is on other people’s minds as well.”
- Take a beat. Say nothing. Be direct. Look the questioner in the eyes and answer. Be a no-nonsense, just-the-facts-please respondent.
- Say, “Thank You” or “Yes” or “OK.” This shows that you have heard, understood and are in agreement with the need to answer.
- Sometimes you will need to rephrase the question back to the questioner to ensure that everyone in the audience understood or heard the question asked.
- And sometimes, some will ask a very pointed, insightful question, to which you can say, “What an interesting question” or “That IS a great question!”*