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  • Writer's pictureErin Bailey Lake

Before you answer a Q&A question, take a breath (and 3 more tips).

Speakers ask us all the time, “How can I get better at answering questions that I didn’t expect?”

First - take a breath. Too many speakers launch into an answer without thinking it through, resulting in "Ums" and "Uhs" and a disorganized answer.

Worse, they'll say, "Great question!" far too excitedly - which lets everyone know you're not prepared to answer. Don't stress. Take a breath. Give yourself a moment to organize your thoughts. Audiences appreciate that.

If you need to stall for time, then ask clarifying questions: who, what, when, where, why.

When you're ready...

Here are 3 ways to answer clearly and succinctly.

1. PREP: Position, Reason, Example, Position (PREP).

In this model, there are 4 steps:

a. First you state your position on the topic.

b. Then you state your reason for taking that position.

c. Next, you provide an example, story, or data point that supports your reason.

d. Finally, you summarize by restating your position.

It’s easier than the first one and can be used to answer a wider variety of questions. 3 Steps:

a. Start by briefly making a point or stating a key idea or objective.

b. Then give an example or story that proves your point.

c. Then you wrap up by restating the main idea, or your main point.

When you are short on time, this is the way to go.

3. Divide & Conquer:

The final structure calls for you to quickly think of a way to divide up your response. Here are a few classic two and three part divisions:

- past, present, future

- problem, solution

- cost, benefit

- us, them

- ideal, real

- low, medium, high

Practice the ones that are common to your field.

And if you’d like to more practice with this skills, contact us: and

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