Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

May 04 2015

The Problem With Q&A Time At Conventions

By David McMillin

Meeting planners are all striving to ditch the talking-head-at-the-front-of-the-room for a more engaging atmosphere where attendees can feel like they’re shaping the experience. One of the most widely used techniques is the classic question and answer session. After listening to 45 minutes of lecture or panel discussion comments, attendees can ask their most pressing questions.

There’s one big problem with this method: bad questions.

Last week, I attended a music conference that brought the challenges of a Q&A period to life. In one particular session, more than 500 attendees listened to an advanced discussion among four high-level executives in the music business. The comments were insightful, and the conversation was forward-thinking. The room was buzzing with energy about solving some of the big issues facing the music industry. When the question and answer period arrived, though, the discussion took a turn toward a more introductory-level.

Perhaps bad is the wrong adjective for many of the questions. Uninformed and irrelevant may be more appropriate. More than 30 attendees gathered around microphones to ask their questions, but only seven of them had the opportunity to submit their inquiries. Many other attendees in the room groaned about some of their broad questions. The panelists struggled to answer two of them. One of the questions was a blatant attempt at self-promotion from an attendee hoping that the executives might listen to her demo. A strong panel ended on a weak note.

Technology offers a simple solution for the problem. Rather than inviting attendees to walk to microphones to ask questions, many mobile applications offer the ability for attendees to submit questions for speakers from their smartphones and tablets. This puts the control in the moderator’s hands to decide which questions will stimulate the most valuable insights from the panelists or lone speaker.

Think of your meeting like a morning TV news show that invites viewers to call in and ask questions. These callers don’t have a direct line to the anchors on the show; this would run the risk of poor questions that may derail the entire segment. Instead, they call and speak with a member of the production team. The team vets the questions and funnels only the best callers through to speak with the broadcast team. The best questions spark the most compelling conversations. The viewers at home stay tuned in. Everyone wins.

A Q&A function isn’t the only must-have piece of a mobile app. Check out “6-Step Mobile App Check-Up” to make sure your app will make your meeting stronger.

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