Surviving Q&A in a Virtual World

With so many virtual meetings these past several months, a number of behaviors are becoming very noticeable. One behavior is the tendency for the facilitator to look at the face of the person on their computer screen asking a question, or they’re looking elsewhere. When that happens, it often appears as though the meeting leader is distracted or uninterested in the question or questioner. This often sets a negative tone and the audience may develop some measure of hostility towards the facilitator. To stay engaged with the questioner, as well as avoiding the perceived negative behavior of disinterest, do the following:

1. Look at the Camera.

When people are asked a question, they will often look up, down, or away when they are contemplating how to answer. This may be perceived by others that you are stumped or wishing you were anywhere else than where you are. This can be compounded in a virtual environment because what we see on our computer screens are usually close ups of the person’s face and where that person is looking. To avoid these potential misperceptions, look at the camera while listening to the question and while answering. When you look at the camera, it looks like you’re looking at the questioner and focusing entirely on that individual and what they are asking.

2. Listen to the Whole Question.

Another challenge is that too many times the questioner is part way through their question, and we think we know what they’re asking, so we quit listening and start to formulate our answer. When this happens, we shift from listening to understand, to waiting to respond. The negative result is we may end up answering a question that wasn’t asked or we may appear to be impatient with the questioner. You can often physically see the moment the person being questioned transitions from listening to thinking. They’re thinking: “hurry up and finish your question so I can get to my answer.”

3. Listen for the Question Word.

One quick way to not think of your answer too soon is to listen for the interrogative or question word. Words such as what, why, how, can, should, did, etc., is the first clue as to what the issue is. Anything said before the question word is usually a statement, a comment, or an opinion. As soon as you hear the interrogative, you had better focus like a laser because what is said next is the actual question. If you don’t hear a question word, then they haven’t asked you a question.

By engaging in the listed behaviors, a facilitator will be perceived as interested in what others have to say, and is listening to understand what is being asked, and not just waiting to respond.

For more tips, tricks, and techniques for handling virtual Q&A effectively, check out Executive Presentation Skills Anywhere™.


About the Author

Jim Moushon is a Senior Master Trainer at Communispond. Jim’s areas of expertise are in executive coaching, presentation skills, media interviews, persuasive dialogue, interpersonal communication, business writing and sales effectiveness. In addition, he does train-the-trainer for Communispond as well as for many of Communispond’s clients.

You can connect with Jim on LinkedIn:


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