Virtual meetings and presentations can be difficult. Knowing when and how to end it when there are no questions can also be a challenge.
To illustrate this point, a colleague recently shared with me a story a friend shared with her. It seems the Vice President of the company her friend works for addressed some 80 employees through a virtual platform. When it came time for Q&A, no one had any questions. Rather than ending the meeting, the VP tried to fill the time with some “small talk” by asking the group if anyone had picked up any new hobbies during the COVID pandemic. One person spoke up and it quickly became a one-on-one conversation. The other 80 attendees felt obligated to stay on the call because they weren’t sure if the meeting was over or not. Needless to say, it became a waste of everyone’s time and it didn’t help the reputation of the VP.
Had the VP had a question or two ready to pose to the group and answer if necessary, once it became clear no one was going to speak up, he could have avoided the negative impact on his reputation, as well as everyone feeling the meeting was a waste of time. Having a question ready to ask your audience, allows you to avoid the prolonged silence made more awkward by it being virtual. The question posed can give everyone a chance to explore a portion of the meeting or presentation topic in greater depth.
For example: after asking for questions and waiting a few moments to see if anyone has a question, you can transition to your posed question by saying: “While you’re thinking of your questions, when I’ve talked about this topic before, people have often asked….” Another option is to pick a particular part of your presentation you’d like the group to explore further by asking: “While you think of your questions, did anyone else think the conclusions of that graph showing… was unusual or unexpected?”
If, after posing and answering one or two questions there are still no questions from the attendees, wrap up the meeting with a summary of the main points and the benefits of doing what was proposed. The benefits could be to the company, a specific department, or to each attendee.
Finally, make it very clear what the next steps are going forward. Who does what and in what specific timeframe? If you don’t have specifics in your next steps, you’ll have to eventually have another meeting because no one knew who was responsible for what and what the deadlines were. That would really be a waste of time!
A Q&A formula includes:
- Ask for questions.
- Have 1 or 2 questions ready to ask and answer (if necessary).
- Summarize the main points of the meeting and the benefits.
- Give specific “marching orders.” Who does what and by when?
By having a formula to encourage questions during Q&A and a strategy for ending with specifics, your meetings will tend to be more productive and less likely to be thought a waste of time.
For more information on structuring virtual Q&A, check out Virtual Presentation Skills™ and Virtual and In-Person Presentation Skills™.