Getting the Q&A going, part 1: Fear of looking stupid

By Juraj Holub, marketing and content manager at Slido

PicJuraj Holubture 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 1 of 4: “I don’t want to look stupid”

One of the biggest obstacles we face is the fear of looking stupid.

As humans, we tend to feel a bit stupid when asking questions. If you think back to your school days you were made to feel that asking questions meant you didn’t understand something and so you would hold back on asking too much to avoid looking stupid in front of your peers. This is something many of us have taken into adulthood.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 74% of us are scared of public speaking and it is known that having to ask questions increases this anxiety. Of course no one wants to feel stupid and it is always easier to remain silent than risk feeling embarrassed, however, as the organiser, there are ways we can help ease our delegates’ fears in order to encourage interaction.

One solution is to evaluate your space. Large rooms with a theatre setup discourage dialogue as any intimacy or friendliness between participants and speaker is ruined by the sheer size of the room. By creating a setup that is intimate and delegate friendly, it will encourage interaction between the speaker and the participants.

Another easy solution is looking to technology. We are lucky enough to be living in a world where putting up your hand and asking a question is no longer the only way to get your voice heard at a conference or speaking event. Try using an audience interaction tool to give everyone an equal chance at asking a question without having to raise your hand and speak out loud.

Tomorrow, adjusting your format to harness interaction.

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


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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  • ““are there any questions?” – that’s the problem. An accomplished MC or moderator will ask specific questions relating to an aspect of the talk or panel discussion. As ever, preparation is the key along with thinking on your feet.

  • Hi Jeremy,
    You made a good point! Hiring a skilled MC, who takes preparation seriously, is one of the most important stakeholders of creating great interaction at events. But instead of relying on the pre-event research, he/she can crowd-source what exactly participants are most eager to discuss in real-time and bring those questions into the discussion straight away.