Is Q&A your favorite part of the presentation? Maybe. We often hear that presenters can’t wait for the time when they can just answer questions. If that’s you, woo-hoo! But for some of us, the very idea of Q&A makes us sweat.
“What if I don’t have an answer?” “What if I say the wrong thing?” “I won’t know what to say.” “I won’t be able to think of a thing.” “My mind goes blank.”
If that’s you, here’s good news! The reality is that our minds don’t truly go blank. Our brains are constantly in the business of making associations. Whenever we hear or see or experience something, our brains spring into action figuring out just how this new input connects with what we already know.
To prove this concept to yourself, play “Word Bounce,” a simple association game, with friends or colleagues. One person says a word – any word – and another person responds with the first word that comes to mind. The next person responds to that word and so on. The key to the game is – just let the word pop out! Don’t worry about trying to be clever or relevant. Faster than you can figure out “what I’m supposed to say,” your brain will supply a word for you.
“Great,” you say. “So my mind works fast at creating associations. But is it really going to give me the information I need during a high-stress situation like Q&A?”
Time to go back to the Graceworks basic of “help your listener.” If you focus on thoughts like, “No one’s asked me that before. I’m looking really stupid right now. I should have an answer to that,” you’re thinking about me, me and me. Your brainpower is wasted on your own nerves instead of helping the person who asked the question.
How to stop thinking about yourself? Listen. Listen like crazy to the client and your teammates. It takes real effort and concentration to put yourself aside and actively listen to others. But you must stay in the present moment and listen to help the other person.
If you listen, associations will come. It’s one of the things your brain does best. Help it help you by listening!