How to Host a Successful Q&A Session with Your Industry Influencers

If you're hosting an event with guest speakers, one of the best ways to engage your audience is with a Q&A session.

These sessions work well as part of a larger event, or they can be the main focus. These days, as virtual events are becoming more necessary and easier to facilitate, you can now host Q&As live or online. This flexibility enables you to reach a much broader audience and host more events thanks to lower operating costs. 

But, as anyone who's attended or hosted a Q&A session can tell you, it's tricky to get the flow of the event right. Guests may not ask many questions, or speakers can easily get off-topic. Fortunately, we're here to help. This guide will illustrate the best practices for running a successful and engaging Q&A session. Whether you're doing it live, as a hybrid event, or virtually, here's what you need to know about hosting Q&A events.

 

What is a Q&A Session?

Q&A stands for "questions and answers." During these sessions, a speaker will take questions from the audience and answer them. Typically, Q&A sessions happen as part of a larger event. For example, perhaps there's a panel discussion about a specific topic. After each presentation, the speakers can open the floor to the audience to ask questions related to the content. 

However, you can host a Q&A-focused event as well. Often, this option works well for industry-level events, where industry members can ask questions from insiders or high-level individuals within the market. Alternatively, you can open the session to the general public so that they can learn more about a specific topic from experts within the field.

 

Benefits of Hosting a Q&A Session

Whether you're hosting a live or virtual Q&A, here are the top reasons to have this type of event. 

    • Streamlined Logistics - Although Q&As can be tricky, they're much more straightforward than other event types. Depending on the situation, you likely don't have to develop a complex itinerary. 
    • Lower Costs - Q&As are easy to do online, so you don't have to rent a venue. Even if you're hosting a live Q&A, you can often get away with a smaller venue since you just need a stage and seating for your audience. 
    • Audience Engagement - The entire purpose of a Q&A session is to get guests to ask questions from the speakers. So, unlike other activities and event types, a Q&A is much more engaging. 
    • Built-In Appeal - As long as you have high-quality speakers at your event, you shouldn't struggle to find attendees. Guests can get a lot of information from events like this, so they're more likely to show up.

 

Tips for Making a Q&A Session Successful

Typically, the issues you can experience during a Q&A include:

    • Off-Topic Questions - Even if the event is about a specific industry, guests may ask unrelated or personal questions about the speakers. 
    • Debates - A Q&A is not a debate. While there can be some back-and-forth between speakers and guests, following the standard Q&A session template is better. 
    • Unprepared Speakers - Speakers need to be well-versed in their topics and address a wide array of questions. If they're unprepared, they can fumble their answers and make the event look disorganized. 
    • Long Answers - Sometimes, speakers may get into long-winded responses to questions. However, if answers take too long, guests can lose interest, and the event's momentum can fizzle out quickly. 

So, knowing the problems that can occur, here are the best ways to prevent them altogether.

 

Have a Moderator

Moderators play a crucial role in a Q&A session because they can cut off guests or speakers and move the event along as necessary. Moderators can also guide the questions to ensure audience engagement. For example, if no one has a question, the moderator can ask from a pre-written list of Q&A session questions.

 

Pre-Interview Your Speakers

While you don't have to host a mock Q&A with each speaker, giving them a list of questions beforehand is good. This way, they can prepare succinct answers ahead of time and won't stumble with their responses during the live session. When doing this, make sure to throw a few creative or unusual questions so that speakers can anticipate them if necessary. 

 

Screen Audience Questions

There are a couple of ways to screen questions before they're asked. During a virtual Q&A, you can have attendees submit questions to the moderator while the speakers are talking. During a live event, the moderator can discuss the question with the audience member before handing them the mic. 

Another option is to have guests submit written questions before the event and during intermission. This allows attendees to think about what they want to ask without the pressure of everyone watching and waiting.

 

Don't Engage With Debates or Off-Topic Questions

If a guest asks an unrelated question, tell speakers they don't have to answer. Similarly, if a question starts to turn into a debate, the speaker or moderator should shut it down quickly. Even if the debate is lively and upbeat, it can slow down the event's momentum. 

 

Set Time Limits

An easy way to keep speakers and guests focused is to limit their time. You can even use a countdown timer to ensure that responses are more efficient. That said, be sure to enforce the time limits. If necessary, you can come back to a question later on if guests want to know more about it.

 

Be Flexible

Sometimes, your guests may only have a couple of Q&A session questions for the speaker. In other instances, there may be too many questions for the allotted time. Either way, you have to be flexible and adapt to the circumstances. If the audience is awfully quiet, the moderator can ask questions or help change topics. If there are too many questions, screening them can help you prioritize and organize them effectively.

 

Things to Consider Before Hosting a Q&A

As we mentioned, you can host a Q&A live or online, and each option comes with different challenges and obstacles. Let's break down the various factors to pay attention to before your event.

 

Live Q&A

    • Venue - You'll want to send your Q&A session invitation well in advance and request RSVPs. This way, you book a large enough venue to host your audience. 
    • Audio and Visual Elements - Typically, it's best to project an image of your speaker so that people in the back can see them more clearly. Also, consider sound requirements, such as microphones and speakers. If you are using mics for audience questions, they need to be set up. 
    • Multiple Speakers - Where will each person sit as the others talk? Or will everyone be seated during the entire event? Will any of the speakers need props or visual aids? 
    • Intermission - Usually, it's best to have a break after a couple of hours or so. This way, guests and speakers can stretch, use the bathroom, and indulge in refreshments. 
    • Food and Beverage - Depending on the length and type of event you're hosting, you'll need to provide some kind of food and beverage service. Snacks and water are essential, but sometimes, you may want to cater the event. In that case, you'll need to plan for a meal break.

 

Virtual Q&A

    • Virtual Event Platform - While sites like Zoom are easy to use for smaller events, what if you have several hundred attendees? You'll need much more comprehensive event technology to handle larger groups. A platform like 6Connex works perfectly because it's easy to use and scalable.
    • Q&A Session Questions - Will guests have to submit their questions in writing or ask them in person? If it's the latter, will guests need to be on video to ask, or can they just use their microphone? 
    • Muting and Unmuting - If more than a handful of people are unmuted, the session can quickly get too loud and overwhelming. Make sure to follow best practices for muting and unmuting as required. Realistically, you'll need a couple of moderators to handle a large group. 
    • Timeframe - Generally speaking, virtual events can feel too long after two hours. So, if you want a longer Q&A session, you'll likely have to break it up into sections with intermissions in between. 
    • Presentations - If speakers have visual aids, they need to know how to share their screens. Each virtual event platform works differently, so you'll have to review the guidelines beforehand. 
    • Rehearsal - A live Q&A is pretty easy to rehearse on-site the day of the event. A virtual session requires a bit more event tech knowledge, so it's better to rehearse before. 
    • Briefing - Virtual Q&A guests may not be familiar with the event technology. So, you'll likely have to spend time onboarding everyone at the start of the event.

 

Hybrid Q&A

When hosting a hybrid event, you have to consider the logistical elements of both live and virtual events. However, some unique factors to think about include: 

    • Broadcasting - If speakers are in a live venue, how will the camera follow them around? How will virtual guests get to see the broadcast? 
    • Communication - How will virtual guests ask questions to the speakers? In this case, having a dedicated moderator to manage chat questions makes sense. 
    • Breaks - If you're planning on a break during the event, what will virtual guests do? Can they log off and then back on when everything restarts?

Fortunately, a virtual event platform like 6Connex works perfectly as a hybrid event solution. You can take care of these logistical issues and more without disrupting your event.

 

Let the Event Tech Experts Take Over

Don't get overwhelmed by hosting a virtual or hybrid Q&A. At 6Connex, we can assist you with the logistics and planning so that your event goes off without a hitch. Contact us today for more insight and expertise on virtual venues, events, Q&A sessions, and more!


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