Getting the Q&A going, part 4: Encouraging your delegates

By Juraj Holub, marketing and content manager at Slido

Juraj HolubPicture the scene: The presenter finishes their session, the moderator steps on stage and asks the audience “are there any questions?” Tumbleweed rolls by as delegates shuffle nervously in their chairs. Eventually, the polite moderator asks an obligatory question and the session comes to a rather anti-climactic end.

Anyone who has ever organised a conference will know this scene well. In fact, during a recent client event, over 50% of event professionals cited a lack of questions from the audience as the biggest barrier when looking to create audience interaction at events.

As event organisers, it is our job to try to combat the fear of the Q&A and encourage our delegates to participate, yet this always seems to be easier said than done. So why don’t participants want to put their hands in the air and get involved?

Part 4 of 4: Encouraging your delegates

When it comes to speaker presentations, an event organiser’s main aim is to deliver useful material which sparks some great audience interaction. However, if you are hoping to create this memorable communication then you need something a little bit more than a speaker standing on stage and asking “are there any questions?” This instantly creates too much pressure, forcing participants to hesitate getting involved even though they might want to.

The best way to encourage questions is to create a “question-asking environment”. You must encourage questions constantly by allocating some time for the audience to reflect on the content and have them proactively brainstorm some questions in pairs or smaller groups. You could let people brainstorm their challenges midway through the presentation and then have them submit their input via an audience engagement tool. Your speaker can address the most pressing questions straight away and keep the rest for the Q&A at the end.

By not simply introducing the speaker and allowing them to talk at the faces in the crowd for an hour, you have already introduced something new to the audience. Dropping in activities and votes throughout a talk means the audience will feel more energised and willing to participate in the discussion.

Of course, there are hundreds of ways to help encourage participation at Q&A sessions, but by understanding why your audience is hesitant is a good place to start. By understanding some of the reasons why delegates would rather sit quietly than put themselves in the spotlight you will be better able to create an audience-based discussion without suffering from the dreaded, awkward silence that follows ‘are there any questions?’ Good luck!

Previous: Fear of looking stupid; Optimising the format; Dealing with time pressure.

Martin Fullard

Martin Fullard is the Deputy Editor at Conference News. Formerly a web editor at a national newspaper in the Middle East and motoring journalist.

Martin Fullard

Author

Martin Fullard

Martin Fullard is the Deputy Editor at Conference News. Formerly a web editor at a national newspaper in the Middle East and motoring journalist.

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