Microphones are no longer the only way for presentation audience members to ask questions; technology has opened up new avenues for Q&A, and audience interaction. It’s rare these days to attend any event, speaking engagement, or lecture that doesn’t have a hashtag on Twitter, an Instagram handle, and a Facebook event page. An event is almost non-existent if it doesn’t have a presence on social media.

But are these more traditional social tools the best for Q&A? We would venture to say no.

Facebook is put to best use to promote, share, comment, and answer questions leading up to an event. With Twitter and Instagram, people can share pictures, follow event-related news, and broadcast real-time commentary.

All these activities enhance the event experience, and should be considered as part of your overall communication strategy. But because they weren’t designed for Q&A, they don’t provide features that can help make a Q&A session more productive.

When should you consider using a social Q&A tool?

  • When presenting to a large audience
    Providing a more private way to submit a question encourages participation from people who may be hesitant to ask a question at a microphone. (It may also result in more candid, thought-provoking questions.)
  • For speaking engagements that encourage dialogue
    When you want to encourage discussion—like a debate or town hall meeting—a Q&A tool can help you aggregate questions to keep the conversation on track.
  • Remote presentations
    Webinars and remote presentations can always benefit from more audience interaction. Many remote presentation tools have built-in chat features, so take advantage of them, and try to weave in an opportunity for audience feedback every five minutes to keep your attendees engaged and out of their inboxes.

Two options to consider
Poll Everywhere and Social Q&A are two apps designed to facilitate Q&A. They both feature moderation and voting, along with other helpful features.

Have a back-up plan
If you choose to use a social tool to moderate Q&A, you should still have a backup plan for any technical malfunctions you encounter. Have a microphone and volunteer ready to help facilitate a traditional Q&A format, or, if you’re presenting remotely, determine an email address people can use if the chat feature is not working.

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