Creating content for your website or blog is a never-ending challenge. One of the best ways to accomplish this is through the use of interviews with other experts in your industry, or even performing Q&A sessions with your audience of readers. This is something BloggingTips.com has been doing for a while now, with their Meet the Bloggers series.
Thanks to the power of WordPress commenting and social media, it wouldn’t be hard to set up something similar for your own brand or blog.
Website content and question-and-answer sessions go together like peanut butter and jelly or salt and pepper. In fact, anyone who has ever attended a presentation or keynote speech would likely be caught off guard by the absence of a designated Q & A session. It seems intuitive: Deliver information then make sure nothing slipped through the cracks and expound on the most noteworthy points.
But not all Q & A lessons and collaborations are created equally. For example, take a look at how many websites will interview just one expert, while others will create expert roundups. It’s much easier to create individual interview posts, but in the long run, you will likely see more benefit and promotion from a roundup with 50+ experts included in one post. When executed well, this time provides audience members to interact with speakers in a meaningful way—clarifying burning questions, circling back to important concepts and making important conceptual connections. But when Q & A session go poorly, they tend to be nothing more than a waste of time for everyone involved.
Facilitating an effective question-and-answer session is a matter of planning, reacting well at the moment and having the right tools to make it all happen. Here are a few guidelines for capping off a presentation with successful audience interaction.
Anticipate Certain Queries
Some questions will inevitably seem to come out of left field. But many submissions will be at least somewhat predictable ahead of time, at least in the subject matter. Thus, it pays to make sure your speakers are prepared to answer these important inquiries without skipping a beat.
As Toastmasters notes, “How you handle questions determines how the audience feels about everything that preceded it. They recognize it for what it is—it’s the prism through which they evaluate your performance, your message, your competence, your credibility, and the success of the entire meeting.”
Fumbling the answer to a key question bodes badly for the session in general, interrupting the flow and challenging the speaker’s authority. Part of pulling off a successful Q & A session is ensuring each speaker knows their subject matter inside and out. Then they can predict what their audience may ask and brush up on the relevant information they need to develop exemplary answers.
Allow for Anonymous Submissions
Allowing anonymous audience submissions encourages people to ask the Q and A questions on their minds. A real-time audience response system, for example, allows people to submit questions—anonymously or with a name attached—using their mobile devices rather than the old-school method of passing around the microphone. This approach has several benefits.
- People can ask their questions without the social pressure of speaking in front of a group.
- Anonymity promotes honesty because participants don’t have to worry about blowback for their candidness.
- Audience members can upvote questions as if to say they “second” them, which allows the most pressing inquiries to rise to the top.
Chances are, if one audience member has a question, someone else does, too. Using anonymity as a vehicle for honesty serves to truly open the discussion. This sense of clarify means everyone can walk away from the session feeling they got the maximum benefit.
Answer the Question at Hand
This tip seems basic. But speakers often inadvertently talk around questions—answering something, but not necessarily the actual query at hand. This tends to leave audience members either confused or dissatisfied. Avoid talking around a question; the audience will quickly see through this tactic. The speaker should also make sure they fully understand the question before launching into an answer. Good listening skills will come in handy here because interpreting the question is just as important as responding. Speakers can always ask for clarification as needed so they can avoid wasting time or going off on a tangent.
With ample preparation and the right tools, you’ll be well on your way to facilitating an effective question-and-answer session for any audience.