At Swift Polling, we love using Q&As to interact with our own team members, but it’s also a service we’re pleased to offer to our polling platform users. Our quick and easy Q&A tool makes it easy to launch a question and answer session in just a few clicks.
Then, you can start collecting questions (or answers!) right before your eyes. Recently, we asked a handful of leaders, managers, and CEOs about their own best practices for Q&As, and today we’re excited to share those results with you.
What are the best practices for Q&As?
We have our own best practices we follow when we conduct Q&As, but we’re always eager to hear what others have to say about their own. (Take a look at this post to see our best practices for virtual Q&A sessions in particular)
But now, let’s hear what other leaders and professionals have to say about conducting Q&As and what works best in their organizations.
Best practices for Q&A timing
The first tip for Q&A timing comes from Jacob Wedderburn-Day, co-founder and CEO of Stasher. He suggests:
“Time limit answers to no more than 2 minutes, or whatever is appropriate. If something is much bigger, follow up questions will tease out the key info. The key here is to avoid losing people’s attention because they don’t know how long you’ll talk for.”
Next, Eden Cheng, marketing director and founder of WeInvoice shared these insights:
“One of the best practices that I would recommend and always carry out myself is to hold a briefing session before the event to help ensure that everyone is informed and prepared. This means running through the event program and establishing necessary time limits or rules before the event. This ensures that you are able to provide the best experience for your audience. You also need to take this time to ensure that you have set aside sufficient time for your Q&A session. For instance, if there is more than one presenter/expert, you may want to set aside more time to allow all of them to answer questions from the audience. On the other hand, if it is an explicitly panel-type Q&A event, then you can try to maximize the time allocated to answer questions and reduce the time spent introducing the guest speakers.”
Anonymity during question and answer periods
Our Q&A tool includes the ability to let audience members submit questions anonymously. We believe this is important for getting the most accurate feedback possible. And we aren’t the only ones who see the power of this feature!
Here’s what David Waring, co-founder of Fit Small Business had to say:
“Give the ability for people to provide questions anonymously. Ahead of every Q&A I send out an anonymous form where the team can submit questions that they might be too shy or uncomfortable to ask in front of the larger group.”
Sai Blackbyrn, the CEO of CoachFoundation.com, also sees the value in anonymity as a best practice for Q&As:
“There is less pressure on the audience this way, which allows members to ask great questions without the fear of being judged or ridiculed.”
We’ve spoken before about the importance of effective moderation during Q&As. Without it, these sessions quickly get off track, take longer than necessary, or even become entirely ineffective.
Here’s what others had to say about moderation during Q&As.
Ebony Chappell, co-founder and CMO of Formspal says:
“If you need a moderator for your Q&A session, be selective in your selection. The moderator’s job is to act as a liaison between the audience and whomever is responding to the questions. They ensure that the questions asked are suitable and that the event does not get bogged down by a single topic. The moderator should be someone who enjoys being on stage, is able to improvise under duress, and is unafraid of guiding, but not dominating, the discussion. If you are serving as moderator, ensure that you are prepared and have briefed all participants in the event. Bear in mind that a superb moderator supports the discussion, not participates in it or takes control.”
Next, Eden Cheng also spoke about the importance of a moderator during Q&As:
“You can also get someone to help moderate the Q&A session, who can help facilitate the connection between the audience and those answering the questions. They will not only ensure that everything is kept to the set time limit, but that the questions being asked are appropriate. They will also ensure that the speakers don’t end up getting too caught up in a debate which is often common, especially when answering controversial topics.”
Honesty is the best policy during Q&A sessions
Many of the leaders we spoke with also shared how critical honesty is during these sessions. In fact, honest and direct responses was one of the most frequent answers to our question about the best practices for Q&As.
Here’s what Teo Vanyo CEO of Stealth Agents shares:
“This is a regular issue I encounter during Q&A sessions: The presenter does not respond to the question that has been posed. It’s possible that it wasn’t on purpose; it’s also possible that they weren’t paying attention. Or perhaps the speaker didn’t know the answer and instead chose to speak about something unrelated in which he was knowledgeable. It makes no difference what the reason is. Avoiding the question erodes the credibility you’ve earned with the audience and causes them to doubt your message.”
We also heard from David Waring again about the power of saying “I don’t know” and answering directly no matter what:
“Don’t be scared to say “I don’t know”. There are some things people ask such as, in the early days of the pandemic, what the long term effects on the business would be, that there was no way of knowing. In these scenarios I think people appreciate leaders just being honest about that and saying they don’t know. Be willing to discuss both the good AND the bad. If your people don’t have an understanding of what’s going wrong with the business they are powerless to help get it fixed. Generally the rumor mill is also much worse than reality, so I found it’s better to just address challenges directly.”
Conduct your own Q&A session
There you have it! Best practices for Q&A sessions directly from the people who use them on a regular basis. Are you ready to start implementing these strategies in your own organization? We’re here to help! Click here to sign up for Swift Polling today and launch your first Q&A.