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How to avoid these 4 major mistakes in a Q&A session

Post it note questions

You’ve delivered a content-packed presentation, having moved seamlessly from slide to slide to give yourself exactly ten minutes to wrap things up with your audience. You throw it out to the room; “Does anybody have any questions?” and are met with… no response whatsoever.

Most of us are all-too-familiar with the proverbial tumbleweed at the end of a session, when we’re hoping for some interactivity with our listeners but are instead met with stubborn silence. What if we told you that this is almost always down to a few, completely avoidable mistakes?

Here are the major culprits behind a disengaged Q&A session and how to sidestep them completely.

The problems:

1 – You’ve not broken the ice

Be honest – were you so focused on getting your words right that you forgot you were talking to a room full of actual people? If you’ve not been actively engaging with your audience from the beginning of your presentation to get them comfortable with talking with you, you’ll startle them into silence when you turn the spotlight on them at the end.

2 – You’ve asked too late

If you’ve been bombarding your audience with information, the chances are that they’ve had questions all along and you’ve simply not given them the chance to ask them. By the time you’ve reached the end of your session those questions might have been forgotten, or maybe don’t seem as relevant.

3 – You’re not asking anyone in particular

By asking everyone, you’re not actually asking anyone. It’s called the bystander effect; Individuals in your audience will shrink back into the crowd, assuming that someone else – any other person in the room – will answer the first question.

4 – You’ve not allowed an appropriate amount of time

It’s common for Q&A portions to be left until the last five or ten minutes of the presentation, but how could you possibly know if that’s enough time before you’ve started talking? When your audience feel like they’re on a timer, it creates extra pressure for their question to be meaningful, making them more reluctant to say anything at all.

The solutions:

Fortunately, these situations can be predicted and prevented with relative ease. Even if you’re striving for a seamless pitch, make sure you’re creating opportunities to interact with your audience throughout the session. An Audience Response System (ARS) is an excellent tool for facilitating this.

The discreet nature of voting via a handset gives each participant the confidence to share their opinions, providing them with a “voice” but without drawing attention to themselves or interrupting the flow of your presentation.

You also have complete power over when your audience can interact and contribute, by choosing when and how to integrate polls or quizzes into your slides. Even taking a moment to ask whether the audience needs further clarification (and using their keypads to vote) will help you find out what’s on your listeners’ minds and help you gauge the level of comprehension in the room.

If you’re finding that the conventional Q&A session isn’t working for you, it’s time to retire it. At CLiKAPAD, we’ve seen countless creative uses of our systems, which have been used to keep audiences informed and attentive, while boosting the engagement with presenters at all kinds of events. If you would like more information about an ARS for purchase or hire, please get in touch.