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Getting Your Budget Approved:
How to Handle a Tough Q & A Session

By Sheri Jeavons

Its budget time and you know what that means…you need to present your budget requests and get them approved! If you present your case well, your department will have the funds you need to excel. If you don’t, you’ll be left scrambling for creative ways to complete tasks and meet goals.

While many people adequately prepare their budget presentation backed with facts, charts, graphs, and detailed projections, they often forget about the question and answer session that follows. In many cases, this is the most important aspect of any budgetary meeting. If you don’t handle yourself with confidence and control, your credibility will plummet, regardless of your recommendations. Think of it as the make or break step to getting your budget approved. If you lose control of the question and answer session, you will inevitably lose control of the outcome. Here are some tips to ensure a successful question and answer session.

Tip 1: Confidence Sells: By remaining calm, cool, and in control when taking questions, you will project confidence in your self and your ideas. Tell yourself, “I deserve this money for my department, and I’m going to get it!” Clear your mind of all the other stresses of your day and focus on this one objective. The more under control you’re able to keep yourself, the more confident you’ll appear, and the better you’ll handle those tough questions.

Remember, an acceptable answer is, “I do not know the answer, however, I will contact the appropriate person and respond by the end of the day.” Better that you admit what you don’t know, than to appear unsure or give an incorrect answer. What is important is that you indicate you know where to get the information and you respond in a timely manner. The more in control you remain, the more the room will see you as confident in your recommendations.

Tip 2: Be Aware of What You Say and How You Say It: Take the time to think before you speak. When defending your position under tough questioning, your natural response is to be defensive.  In budget meetings, defensive behavior is a recipe for disaster. Rather than say the first thing that pops into your mind, take a few seconds to collect your thoughts before you respond. Pause and breathe deeply to give yourself time to formulate a correct and intelligent response. When you implement this technique, the audience will see you as thoughtful, decisive and respectful of the importance of their question. When responding to a tough question, begin your answer by stating a goal of the group. This will help you verbally diffuse the negative tone and communicate a positive response.

Be aware of your tone of voice as you answer questions. Keep your voice neutral yet professional. Keep your demeanor helpful and informative at all times.

Tip 3: Be Mindful of Your Body Language: Your physical conduct sends a message to the audience about your confidence level and expertise. Your body language must reflect the same confidence that your words portray.

If you’re standing, stand with your hips and head facing the person you’re speaking to. Keep both feet firmly planted on the ground shoulder width apart. This stance will allow you to gesture naturally and physically connect with the individuals in the audience.

If you’re seated, sit upright in your chair with both feet planted firmly on the ground. Avoid slouching in your seat or leaning with your elbows on the table. Keep your hands on the table to allow for natural gestures. Look the other person in the eye to communicate a feeling of confidence.

Tip 4: Balance the Energy in the Room: You want to create an environment where everyone feels free to ask questions. We all have been in meetings when someone dominated the discussion or questions. It is important to show respect to everyone in the room.  Knowing how to balance your energy will help everyone stay engaged and keep one person from controlling the conversation.

Begin your answer speaking directly to the questioner. As you continue speaking, begin to slowly move your eye contact to others in the room. This will help you to appear inclusive of others beyond the questioner. When possible, end your answer with someone other than the questioner. If you find you ended your answer on the person who asked the original question, you have just given them control and likely invited another question. If you end on someone else, it will keep your energy open to everyone in the room and minimize tough follow-up questions from the original questioner.

When you finish your answer, turn to the group and ask if they have any more questions. This will encourage others to engage because your body language tells them you are open. Remember, the goal is to keep the energy open to everyone in the room.

Show Me the Money! Question and answer sessions can be tough, but when it comes to money matters, the stakes are usually high and questions are usually hard. When you keep these four tips in mind, you can handle any budgetary question and answer session with ease, and get the funding you deserve.

Read other articles and learn more about Sheri Jeavons.

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