Tips for using social gools to facilitate Q&A

Written by

Stephanie Patterson

Making Q&A prep part of your presentation ritual is crucial to delivering a successful presentation. But facilitating an effective Q&A session isn’t as simple as it once was.

Passing around a microphone is no longer the only way for 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? I would venture to say no.

Facebook is used most effectively 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.

What features should you look for?

  • Moderation
    This enables you to sort, filter, and select questions you want to answer. This helps remove redundant or off-topic questions, and focus on those most relevant to your message.
  • Voting
    Enabling your audience to cast a vote is a common feature, and a great way to engage your entire audience in choosing the question—even those that would never normally ask one. A list of questions to vote on can be predetermined by you. Or, audience members can submit questions that are then voted on by the larger group. Answering the most popular or frequently asked questions ensures a more valuable experience for the largest number of audience members. And, seeing which questions the audience chooses can also provide insight into what you did not communicate clearly in your presentation.
  • On-screen Display
    Depending on the size of the group, you may want the option to display the questions onscreen. This lets the audience know that their question has been received, and in which order it is likely to be answered. The visible stream of may even spark new questions from other audience members.

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.

Good luck and happy questioning!