Navigating the post-presentation Q&A session can trip up even the most seasoned public speaker. You might be faced with rambling questions, hostile questions, or simply that dreaded “cricket chirp.” Here are 7 things you can do to ensure a smooth wrap-up to your presentation:

  1. Set the ground rules: At the beginning of your talk, spell out your preference for taking questions. Should participants save their questions for the end of the session, or are you comfortable fielding questions during your talk?
  1. Grease the wheels: In case no one has a question, have some questions of your own prepared to engage the audience, prompt dialogue and get the Q&A session rolling.
  1. Play devil’s advocate: Think about what questions — especially ones that challenge your views — participants are likely to ask, so you can be prepared with smart, thoughtful answers.
  1. Be respectful: If a participant asks a question that’s vague or irrelevant, try to paraphrase the question in a way that steers the conversation back to your topic. If you’re confronted by a combative or hostile participant, do your best to stay composed, acknowledge his or her point, and offer a polite response.
  1. Maintain order: If a participant tries to hijack the meeting with his/her agenda, quickly remind him/her that there’s limited time for the Q&A session, and that you’d be open to further discussion after the presentation concludes. And then keep things moving.
  1. Don’t blow smoke: If you’re not sure how to respond to a question, don’t wing it. Admit that you don’t have an immediate answer and, if it’s feasible to follow up with that person at a later point, offer to do so.
  1. Plan your finale: After the final question, thank participants for their time and close with a thought-provoking observation to end the session on a strong note

Allowing enough prep time for your Q&A session will help ensure your presentation is polished and professional from start to finish.