How Can Event Q&A Become Unquestionably Better?
The Answer: With these 7 Best Practices
Question-and-answer sessions at business meetings and conferences can engage and inform—or they can fall flat and careen off the rails.
Savvy event professionals know not to leave such programming to chance. Let’s explore best practices for Q&A so that with intention and attention, all your future sessions sizzle. When you use my easy-to-implement process, you’ll find your audiences, your presenters and your fellow organizers will have a more positive, impactful experience.
- Lay the groundwork: First, let presenters who will be taking Q&A know you stage “Best Practice Q&A” and as such, you don’t want to end the entire program with Q&A. Instead, ask them—in advance of the event so they can thoughtfully prepare—to close with a final, short and relevant point, anecdote, or big-picture insight.Think of it as a content sandwich: Main program, Q&A, short closing segment. This three-part package unites all the remarks in a memorable, positive way. If you end with Q&A, you have no control over how your events end, how attendees depart, and the last emotions and thoughts you leave with audiences.After all, what if the last question sucks the air right out of the room? Is confrontational? Drones on and on? Instead, give your speakers the last word and enjoy positive conclusions to events you work so hard to design.
- Run with it: Prepare to have mic runners in the aisles who deliver cordless mic(s) to each person in advance of asking questions. Or have a couple mics on stands at the front of the room.
- Prepare your audience: Ask your presenter to say something like this—and note that each component is integral to your success: “That concludes my main remarks. As you know, we’ve included a short Q&A in this session. It will last 15 minutes. I’ll then close with some final remarks. So that we can maximize our time together, please keep your question short, and in the form of a question, so that we can address as many questions as possible with the time allotted. Also…please 1. Raise your hand 2. Wait for a mic to come to you And state your question. Who wishes to go first?”
- Use a proven answer protocol: Whether the question was amplified or not, be sure the presenter repeats or summarizes each question for the benefit of all. If some don’t hear the question, they will certainly not be engaged in the answer. Then have presenters share short, relevant answers to address each question while allowing as much participation (and as little boredom) as possible.
- Plant a plant: If you think questions will be minimal, or politically charged, appoint someone in the audience to ask the first question. Yes folks: a plant. This is your “safety net” who delivers a thoughtful, pre-selected question that positively sets the tone for the rest of the Q&A.
- Employ a crucial, strategic close: When there’s time for one more question, ask the speaker to inform participants so they can know what to expect. And if the speaker is willing, and it’s clear that questions still remain, announce he or she will linger to take questions 1:1 after the program is over.
- End on a high note: Then, the speaker presents his/her short, pre-selected closing vignette to wrap up the program and bridge all the remarks.
Voila: you’ve stayed on track, maintained crucial levels of engagement, and informed your audience with new insights.
Image by World Tourism Organization via Flickr Creative Commons License