The best Q&A (questions & answers) tip I got came from a friend who works at a top VC fund in the valley: she asked me if I knew the difference between a good and a great question. A “good” question is very intelligent; touches on a critical point about your business… but that you don’t know exactly how to answer on the spot. A “great” question, on the other hand, is also very intelligent… but not only have the answer for (on the spot), but also have supporting slides! When someone asks you a “great question”, you need to control your smile, because you know you’re going to score some points.
After this tip, I defined as a personal goal to make sure that whenever I went through a Q&A session all questions should be great! That definitely stepped up my game.
Q&A session is part of the pitch… and needs as much preparation
When people prepare their pitches, they’re usually thinking about the 7 minutes they will be on the stage presenting, and end up forgetting about the Q&A session… that’s a big mistake!
The Q&A session is the time judges/ investors have to explore the weaker points of your business, trying to extract from you an “unsanitized” answer. That’s exactly why I recommend you to surprise them, with a perfect preparation.
On the pitch I gave for the 43North competition semifinals, I had 24 slides on my pitch, including the “cover”, contact, pictures, and another 60 just for Q&A! I got to admit that it was awesome when they asked me a “great question”, and I opened the slide and answered on the spot! When we finished the meeting, they told me they really liked that level of preparation!
But how do I prepare for it?
First, you learn what people ask by experience; you take every single opportunity to pitch your business and every time someone asks you something you weren’t prepared for, you go back to the office and add it to your Q&A slides.
Second, you watch as many pitch competitions as you can, and write down the questions they make. You’ll notice a pattern… questions are pretty similar, especially on comparable business models (marketplace, Saas, content…). Write down the questions, and make sure you’re addressing them, either on the presentation part or on the Q&A.
Finally, you can induce judges to ask what you want; that’s a very clever pitch hack! The topics you should cover in your pitch are pretty much standard (I recommend reading our article about a pitch table of contents). So I select a topic that I’ll intentionally not cover on the pitch. It’s got be something that won’t spoil the presentation by leaving out, but that you can explore a clever insight you had.
In AgendaPet‘s case, for example, I do this with GTM – go to market -(how I acquire customers). In Uber-like models, like ours, it’s usually pretty straightforward (online advertising + repeat business). However, in AgendaPet we have a sizable organic traffic as a result of a growth hack strategy we apply: on cities we don’t cover yet, we have a free service directory listing, so users can find professionals. It also attracts prospective professionals. This way, when we decide to migrate a city, we already have a very good starting point! I like leaving GTM out of “main pitch” so I can surprise judges with my answer… and, by experience, they usually ask that question!
Inducing the judges what to ask has also a side benefit: you avoid judges “curve balls”! Usually there’s as much time allotted for Q&A time as for the presentation itself. Judged have to ask questions, period. So, if you don’t leave room for easier questions, they’ll dig for something trickier… make both of your lives easier!
A perfect pitch won’t make a bad business look good; but it can make a good business be seen as it should. When it comes to the pitch, it’s always a matter of taking it one step further; everything counts! Surprising the audience with a “great answer” will not only guarantee a better understanding about your business, but also will show the type of leader/ manager you are!