Conference Question and Answer slots can go one of two ways, there’s either deathly silence or they become adversarial battles between the audience and top brass.
Here are some tips to manage the discussion and make it a pleasant and productive session for all concerned:
- Channel questions through a host to the panel. A good conference host will demonstrate their independence by gently challenging the panel and ensuring panel members don’t avoid honestly answering questions.
- Pre/prepare some questions, the host can have these on cards to start a debate or switch to a new topic.
- Mix business with ‘about you’ questions such as what was each panel members first job?
- Have roving microphones positioned around the room, take care not to hand these over to questioners, brief those roving how to hold for each speaker and advise that if the host cuts in they should draw the mic back. This avoids the classic problem of an audience member dominating the discussion by either asking long winded questions or worse asking a second or third question.
- If you are confident that there aren’t any mic hoggers in the audience then you could use ‘catch box‘. This new device injects energy and will encourage greater participation. In small groups sitting in the round it’s a great way to control the conversation.
- To change tack allow the host to intersperse their own questions amongst those from the floor. For instance if the audience get stuck asking about pay, after an appropriate time the host might ask a question about working environment to move the debate on.
- Consider having delegates text their thoughts and questions during the conference, or use sli.do.
If you’d like some free advice ahead of your next conference, please get in touch, we’d be delighted to help.