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Running a Q&A event is a great way for an organisation to engage with its stakeholders, give them a voice and provide valuable information on the topics important to them. Whether you’re holding a Q&A in front of a live audience, or using a conferencing service, it’s in the best interest of everyone involved that the event runs in an efficient, effective, timely manner.
With these simple tips, you can make sure that attendees and presenters alike are able to get the most out of a Q&A event, and avoid common pitfalls which can take away from your audience’s experience.
Preparation is key for a successful event of any kind. To begin, it’s a good idea to brief your presenters about the format of your event – including how long they will have for Q&A afterward, what kinds of questions they can expect, who will be able to ask questions, and other important details. The more prepared your speakers and moderators are, the smoother the event will run.
The length of your Q&A session depends mostly on the format of your event. For example, a presentation on a particular topic with a single speaker may require you to allocate 15-20 minutes for Q&A after the presentation, to ensure that anyone who wants to ask a question can do so.
In contrast, a panel discussion without a presentation will have the bulk of its time dedicated to Q&A – in this case, the timing of the event could be decided by considering expected audience size, number of kick-off questions, the number of panel members, and any other factors which could lead to the Q&A running longer.
It’s best to not let the Q&A go over the allocated time limit, even if not every question has been answered. A conference which drags on overtime shows a lack of planning, which reflects negatively on the organisers. To avoid disappointment from audience members who might be leaving with their question unanswered, it’s best to ensure that any additional questions can be answered by email or on an individual basis after the end has finished.
A great moderator can turn a Q&A from boring and interview-like into an exciting and engaging experience for all attendees. They can introduce the panel, take audience questions, and keep everything on track. In a virtual Q&A, moderators can also greet audience members as they connect to the event, take their questions in advance, and control who is able to talk at any certain time. If you are unfamiliar with hosting Q&As, or would rather direct you efforts elsewhere, consider having a dedicated moderator for your event.
Some audiences may have no questions ready or need some prompts to formulate them. A good way to kick off the questions is to ask the panel a few prepared questions, which they be able to confidently answer. Then, as the session continues, audience members will be more inspired to ask questions of their own, increasing participation and adding value to the event.
Similarly, inform your audience at the beginning of the session that there will be a Q&A, rather than waiting until the end to ask ‘does anyone have any questions?’ If the audience knows in advance, they can pay better attention during the session and take notes about anything they’d like to know more about. This way, the event will run smoother and more audience members are likely to participate, creating a better experience for all.
Be wary of question topics which could devolve into a back-and-forth debate between speakers in the Q&A. More discussion does not always mean more value for the audience. If you are expecting debatable topics to be discussed, it’s a good idea to take questions from the audience in advance so that answers can be prepared and given for each question without live input from the audience member.
If you would prefer to have audience members ask questions directly, the moderator should be responsible for ensuring they ask just one question, and maybe a single follow-up, if it’s deemed appropriate. You want to avoid repeat “back-and-forth” between an audience member and your speaker or presenter, as this can take time away from other questions, and detract from the experience of the rest of your audience.
In the end, a Q&A session is about providing value to your audience. If you follow these tips, you’ll be well on your way to running an efficient, engaging, timely Q&A event, leaving your audience with a better understanding of the topics, and satisfied with your answers to their questions.
If you are planning to host a virtual Q&A session, Express Virtual Meetings can help with planning, connections and moderation. Contact us today about professional managed events
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