Tips for Speakers ~ Toastmasters International


Questions can demonstrate whether your audience understood the material and whether you have communicated the idea or concept efficiently. In a smaller group questions can be handled during the talk, in larger groups it is often easier to designate a time for questions afterwards.

1. Frame the Q & A session
Define the parameters of the question and answer session. “Please keep your questions short and on topic.” Clarify how much time is available for Q & A.

2. Acknowledge all hands as they go up, and answer in that order
There is nothing worse than members of the audience feeling they are not seen, or acknowledged, or forced to hold their hands up, resting their elbow on their other hand for support. Acknowledge those who raise their hands and answer the questions in order.

3. Repeat the question to ensure clarity
Repeating the question allows you time to contemplate the answer. It also allows those who did not hear the question to understand what was asked. This is particularly important when there is no microphone. Repeating the question allows clarification of what was asked. Some questions come out muddled. Repeating back the question allows for some clarification. It is essential to ensure that you have correctly understood the question.

4. Prepare typical questions
This allows you to get the ball rolling if the audience does not ask questions immediately. It demonstrates that people do normally ask questions and gives the audience permission to ask questions, for example “a question I am often asked is …”

5.  Close with a summary of key points

Close with a summary of what was learned from the Q & A session and your key points. This leaves a stronger impression than closing on someone else’s question.

Your audience expects you to be confident and to maintain control of the session. Often when the Q&A session goes “pear shaped” it’s because the speaker has lost control and gone off message (the point of the talk). Audiences may form a negative impression when the speaker reacts emotionally, but leave with a positive impression when you remain calm, confident, and in control.

Richard Riche, TLI trainer