Question-and-answer sessions following a panel or keynote are one of your attendee's best opportunities to engage with your event. But due to their unpredictable nature, Q&As are also notoriously difficult to moderate.
From the dreaded silence when a presenter opens the floor to questions, to an attendee hijacking the session with niche questions, there are many pitfalls to navigate. A little preparation and emerging live Q&A technology can help event planners ensure attendees and speakers alike feel at ease.
Here are three ways to engage your entire audience in Q&A sessions:
1) Give Everyone a Voice
If you can guarantee one thing during a Q&A session it's that the majority of the people in the room probably aren't comfortable asking questions in front of a crowd—especially if that crowd contains their coworkers and other business partners. Research from the Statistic Brain Institute finds that 74 percent of people suffer from speech anxiety.
To remedy this, provide other ways for your attendees to submit questions that don't require them to speak in public. You can create forums on your event website or social media pages to solicit questions before each session begins.
If you are using an event app with a live Q&A feature, make sure attendees know they can submit questions directly from each session page. Will Munce, lead product designer at DoubleDutch, explains that the DoubleDutch Live Q&A feature "allows attendees to up-vote [questions], so that the speaker can focus on answering the most relevant ones." The app also enables event planners to moderate the questions submitted and flag anything inappropriate or unrelated before it disrupts a session.
2) Eliminate Wasted Time
Logistically, traditional Q&A's are clunky and often inefficient. "In a traditional pass the mic Q&A situation, probably more time is spent passing the mic than actually answering questions. The Live Q&A feature allows everyone to get their questions in without ever having to touch a mic," says Munce.
- Munce recommends preparing some questions in advance so that if you aren't seeing a lot of engagement you can jump into a session and add it to help get the ball rolling.
- Not sure which questions will play the best? Observe which conversations are trending in your event app and on social media.
- Have a moderator on standby to read questions aloud from the app, or another source of submissions. If a moderator isn’t available, then make sure the speaker knows how to access submitted questions before their session starts.
- Make sure the moderator or speaker is mindful of the session time, that means they must know when to cut off questions or move on to the next question.
- Check in with every speaker to see if there is any content they had to cut from their presentation that might be worth tackling during a Q&A.
3) Switch up the Timing
Everyone expects the Q&A portion to happen at the end of a session, but adding a short break for Q&A in the middle of a long keynote or panel just might invigorate attendees and also signal to speakers whether the remaining presentation meshes with what people want to hear. "This new Q&A feature allows you to switch things up, if a speaker wants to jump into a quick Q&A session and then go back into the planned speech, they can do that with ease," says Munce.
Think of it as an opportunity for a real-time course correct if attendees don't seem as engaged as you (and your speaker) had hoped. It's a great hedge against a halting start to your next Q&A.
A little bit of prep will go a long way in making your Q&A a success, but the work doesn't stop when the session ends. Make sure you provide a channel for attendees to share any unanswered questions they might have after a session ends—whether through email, the event website, app, or social media. Keeping a log of questions asked during Q&A can help you find inspiration for future blog posts or your next newsletter.
Want to learn more about how to bring Live Q&A capabilities to your next event? Check out our new Live Q&A feature.