ACK! Q&A is NOT engagement

© 2017 Andrea Driessen

You likely have had this experience: You ask speakers how they’ll interact with attendees, and some say, “I’ll add Q&A at the end.” As if that will solve the problem.

It will NOT. It’s a LAZY solution. Audience engagement does NOT equal Q&A.

Sure…a handful of folks may feel engaged when the speaker answers their questions. But the rest? They’re often tuned out, as the Q is frequently irrelevant at worst, moderately interesting at best.

So what CAN you do to boost engagement? A few easy-to-roll-out formats: 

1-Post-Program Pair-Up

This is a simple, powerful exercise I’ve designed to increase networking and the likelihood of positive change. Whether you have 5 or 5,000 attendees, near the end of your program or event, have participants find partners. Each dyad discusses new goals they want to reach in the next 60 days. They record their objectives—plus each other’s contact information—and together commit to reaching these milestones. Smaller audience? Take commitments to a higher level: invite everyone to state their goals before the whole group; sharing publicly means you’re more likely to succeed.

2-Solve the “unsolvable” with Cricking

Think of historical figures, celebrities or someone outside your industry. Then talk about: How would Oprah approach this problem? What’s Mark Zuckerberg’s POV? What does the founder of AirBnB bring to the table?

3-“I knew it, I blew it and here’s how I moved through it.”

Meeting design expert Brian Walter has developed a clever construct. Asked to share what could have been a “career-limiting move,” meeting goers learn, laugh and grow.

This segment can serve as a fresh, engaging “table topic” for everyone. It has the entire audience learning how to turn a negative career move into a positive one—i.e. a “best practice.” And it reinforces that while success is important, when we make errors, it’s what we learn from the experience that is crucial. Viewing mistakes as educators rather than avoid-at-all-costs errors reframes the experience and builds a culture with more transparency and accountability. It also helps leaders view “failure” with less stress, and frees up energy for more success. Besides, vicarious pain is the most enjoyable 😉 The execution is simple. Ask leader(s) to publicly share what could have been a “career-limiting move,” and turn the experience into a positive, educational experience that’s worthy of some swagger.

They discuss a project or customer experience (“I knew it.”) that didn’t go as planned (“I blew it.”) and the lesson: how they will perform differently in the future (“what I learned through it.”)

4-Project, Prepare, Persevere® card.

Speaker and world record-setting mountaineer Susan Ershler distributes postcard-size cards during her keynotes. And asks the participants to think about and then record on the card an “impossible” personal and professional goal they wish to achieve in the next year. She then uses this as a springboard to deeper engagement and learning, telling a story that proves the uncanny power of writing out our goals.

5-Walk and Talk

Simple, easy, fun. Get everyone out of their chairs and walking around in pairs or small groups to discuss specific applications of a meeting’s programming. Walking restores rather than depletes energy, biochemically moves ideas from short- to long-term memory, and keeps brains engaged in the topics at hand.

When Q&A IS the best solution, check out my take on Q&A Best Practices so your Q&A sizzles.