Here’s a question: How much effort do you put into making your webinars’ Q&A sessions a success? Do you know the humble Q&A can make your webinar more dynamic and audience friendly?
Many webinar hosts and producers treat the Q&A period as an afterthought. That’s a huge mistake!
One of the best ways you can ensure attendees will enjoy your webinar and want to come back for more is to make sure the Q&A works for them.
The Q&A is the most interactive portion of a webinar for a number of reasons:
- Participants can ask questions directly to a subject matter expert (SME) that they would not normally have access to.
- Q&A’s encourage further discussion among panelists and attendees, allowing for a spontaneous exchange of ideas.
- While the direction of a webinar is mostly determined by the host, the Q&A is the one part that’s driven by the audience.
- You could say the Q&A is what puts the “life” in your live webinars. (And the audience interaction makes your later recorded webinars feel more lively, too!)
A Word on the Chat Box vs. Q&A Conundrum
Before moving forward, it’s important to talk about the differences between the Q&A and Chat features in Zoom (and similar platforms). While both are tools that promote discussion, there are key differences between them.
Q&A Box: A tool where attendees can send questions directly to the host and panelists. Only the host/panelists can see the submitted questions before they are answered, and they have the ability to filter the submitted questions accordingly.
Chat Box: A window where attendees can communicate with panelists and/or all attendees. The chat is viewable by everyone in the live webinar and cannot be filtered.
One of the best ways you can ensure attendees will enjoy your webinar and want to come back for more is to make sure the Q&A works for them.The Q&A Box is specifically designed to help the question-and-answer session run smoothly. It can be distracting for the audience when a host says, “Just let me scan through the chat to see if anyone has a question…”
On the other hand, some webinar producers like the impression of constant interaction that can be created by having an open chat box throughout the session. If the host and presenters are comfortable with this, it can make for a more engaging event—but it can be tricky to manage. You may want to establish a rule that no trolls are allowed in the Chat Box—and messages that are strictly self-promotional will be deleted.
As a rule of thumb, we generally recommend encouraging your attendees to submit their questions into the Q&A box, while reserving the chat for messages between the technical support team, panelists and participants.
Our Four Tips for Running a Successful Q&A
Simply having a Q&A portion in your webinar is not enough to ensure it will be a success or that people will participate. As the host, there are steps you can take to ensure your question-and-answer session works for everyone.
1. Be Prepared with Some “Plant” Questions
Sometimes your attendees may be a bit shy to ask the first question; or maybe they need some time to think about how to word their question and type it in.
It’s best to come up with a number of questions that can be submitted anonymously to ensure the Q&A portion gets going. These questions can be put together in advance, with your SME having input on the common questions that might be expected. By starting off your Q&A in this way, it will encourage further participation from attendees.
2. Advertise the Q&A at Multiple Points
One of the best ways to ensure your attendees submit questions is to let them know at multiple points that there will be a Q&A portion in your webinar. This can include notes on your registration page and in any promotional materials that are published on social media or sent over email.
In the live webinar, it’s a best practice for the moderator to mention that a Q&A will be included at a given time in the webinar, such as 45-50 minutes after the start time. Notes about the Q&A can also be included in any intro/housekeeping slides, as well.
3. Have a Dedicated Person Managing the Q&A
This may seem to be out of the ordinary, however, we’ve discovered that having a technical team member managing and filtering the Q&A portion on the back end of the platform can be a key factor in holding a successful Q&A. This is for two primary reasons:
- Having a dedicated member of the team that filters in/out questions allows for the moderator and other speakers to focus on delivering the best presentation possible.
- Taking this task off the hands of the on-screen presenters can relieve any potential nerves relating to managing this busy portion of the event.
- No matter how many times you advertise that questions are to be submitted in the Q&A box, there will always be someone who will enter their question in the Chat Box. The person managing the Q&A can easily redirect these to the proper stream.
4. Don’t “Run Over” Your Q&A
Some presenters treat the Q&A as slush time that they can simply run into if they aren’t finished talking yet. Don’t let your Q&A be a traffic accident, due to your presenter’s inability to stop!
In briefing your presenter(s), make sure they understand the importance you place on your attendees’ opportunity to be heard, and agree on a time signal to let them know it’s nearly time for the Q&A.
Follow these 4 simple rules, and you’re well on your way to building positive engagement with your webinar attendees—who will not only want to come back, but encourage their friends and colleagues to join your future webinars!
Your Turn Now
As an attendee, have you had a disappointing experience in a webinar Q&A session that wasn’t well managed? Mention it in the comment section below, so other readers can learn from your experience of “what can go wrong.”