5 Tips to Improve Q&A at Your Next Conference

Many event planners worry about Q&A sessions: Will attendees have enough questions for the speaker? Will the questions be relevant? Will the speaker be able to answer the questions? On blog.sli.do, Juraj Holub offers five tips to make sure that potentially unpredictable Q&A sessions run smoothly:

1. Prepare the moderator

The moderator is the conductor driving your event, and it is his or her job to steer the conversation between presenter(s) and the audience. Make sure the moderator is properly briefed prior to the event. Discuss how the long the Q&A session will last, and how audience questions will be collected. It may be wise to brainstorm some questions in advance. Have a few provocative ones up your sleeve to jumpstart the Q&A and motivate the audience to join in.

2. Coordinate with the speaker(s)

Many speakers find the post-presentation Q&A session more stressful than the speech itself. Help them feel more confident by sharing expectations of how many questions they might expect, and the general nature of the questions. If time permits, the moderator could feed the speaker(s) some sample questions so they could practice in advance of the actual event.

3. Give presenters tips for handling questions

Planners must be sensitive when helping speakers prepare for the Q&A—you don’t want to make them feel incompetent! Ask them how they prefer to take questions, brainstorm potential subjects and rehearse together in a safe environment. If the speakers are amenable, send out a pre-event survey to determine what questions the audience might have in mind.

4. Don’t shortchange Q&A

Make sure to allot enough time for Q&A. The best thing that could happen is for attendees to become engaged in a lively discussion! The goal is to turn presentations into conversations. Aim for 40 minutes of talk, followed by 20 minutes of Q&A.

5. Collect questions from the audience

There are three ways to collect questions. Having audience members raise their hands is probably the oldest form of interaction. Unfortunately, very few audience members dare to ask questions this way, as no one wants to break the ice. Generally, this method works best in small groups. A growing number of people have embraced Twitter for live-tweeting and providing real-time feedback. Event planners can use their event hashtag for collecting questions, however be careful that the questions don’t get lost in the stream of other tweets. Finally, attendees can be encouraged to submit questions via their smartphones, and planners can crowd-source the best questions from the audience. As participants vote on the submitted questions, the truly interesting ones will rise to the top, making for a lively discussion. When choosing this solution, make sure the technology is sophisticated enough, and that the Wi-Fi is stable.


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