Cat got your tongue? Five ways to improve audience Q&A at events

Publication Date: 
26th. April 2016
Cat got your tongue? Five ways to improve audience Q&A at events
Suddenly you're staring out at a desolate wasteland of Easter Island statues and unsure hands half hovering in the air. 

Yet audience Q&A has the potential to engage audiences and let them contribute to the conversation. Some of the memorable events or sessions come from really engaging audience debate.
Unfortunately, we’ve all been in audience question sessions that just haven’t got going. Whether that is through fear of public speaking, or a presentation that has sparked no discussion. For the introverts in the room, the presence of the microphone being passed around towards them creates an unpleasantly fast heartbeat and sweaty palms. They’re doing anything to avoid having the mic thrust upon them, praying it will be passed on to someone else.
Whilst this seems to be very downcast, I come back to my point that the best events have had some of the best audience Q&A sessions – where the meeting designers and speakers have managed to engage audiences seemingly effortlessly. Julius Solaris, for example, is now presenting almost entirely focused on audience Q&A – check out his session at Event Tech Live.
If you can get your audience questions session to be engaging and interactive for everyone, it can create a buzz around your entire event. The best bit? It's so cost-effective and easy to do.
Thus, in keeping with a trendy Buzzfeed style, I present five easy and simple tips to create fantastic audience Q&A sessions at your events:

1. Give them a helping hand
First up, I’ll just say that this is the best tip I can give to anyone running Glisser or any other audience participation software for Q&A, so listen up!
In my experience across hundreds of events, there are (nearly) always people willing to become involved, however not many of them relish going first. So whether you're using technology to power audience Q&A, or relying on hands up in the room, it's really imperative that you seed your questions.
We don't see it as cheating... it's simply kickstarting the debate by reassuring the audience they won't be first. And if there's one failsafe way to ensure audience interaction, it's by making it seem as if the questions have come from one of their own.
Of course, if everything is goes great however, and the questions are flying in, there's no need to seed any.

2. Use audience Q&A tech
Interactive Q&A technology can make a huge difference. If you look at how simple it is to use compared to the benefits it can bring to your event, it makes a compelling option for events large and small.
By allowing audience members to ask questions, make comments, and upvote things through their smartphones, it increases engagement and allows the introverts to become involved. You end up with tons of content for post-event conversations, easily converted into blog articles or blasts on social media.

3. Keep the pace up
We find that presentations are the opportunity for speakers to show off their knowledge, whereas audience Q&A sessions are the chance for quick-fire, more succinct information to be exchanged. Too many times has a Q&A session become a long, dull affair with the presenter getting through one question and losing out on what could have been an amazing debate.
To keep things moving along, you could ensure the session is kept to restricted time limits for answers, maybe even adding an element of gamification by including a countdown clock. Make sure your speakers are told beforehand, letting they relish the challenge.
Panel discussions can be done in a similar way, with someone moderating the questions that come in via your participation technology, and directing them to the right people, instead of it being a free for all, or a sales pitch from each panellist.

4. Don't be too strict with moderation
We always get asked whether we can moderate audience questions through Glisser - yes we can and so can you. We know the fear you feel that someone will abuse the Q&A feed or bring up a difficult topic. That’s exactly what moderation is for.
Make sure however, that your moderator isn't overdoing it with the ‘reject’ button. Amazing positives can come from the more leftfield audience input. We’ve had audience members bonding over the colour of a presenter’s tie, or making connections across different locations about the quality of the biscuits during a three-city virtual event. At the end of the day, your audience's experience is really what the event is for, right?

5. Recycle your data post event
There is always a lot of focus about creating a sense of community among your audience. However, this is fairly difficult to do. During the event it's simple, everyone is together and interacting, yet as soon as they're out the door who's to say their attention won't dramatically drop?
As well getting current guests to return, all your conversations post-event are equally important to entice new attendees and grow your turnout. Who doesn't search continuously to find out how their event can be better the next time?
If you have the budget, film the discussion. Also, take the content and turn it into articles, infographics, post it to social media and create personalised post event conversations to re-engage your audience members who asked the questions originally.
This is simple to do, and even easier if you capture all the audience questions through some sort of audience Q&A technology...
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Contact Person Name: 
Mike Piddock
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