If the recent exodus from paper show guides to event apps is any sign, certain aspects of your event may soon be broken by the sheer pace of innovation. “Move fast and break things” is the darling phrase of innovators everywhere, and in the event planning space, this is no different.
The role of innovation in the event space has recently taken a spotlight in business media. The Harvard Business Review blog is one of the more recent contributors to the ongoing discussion. 4 Ways To Fix The Q&A Session is written by Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg, a business innovation thought-leader and professional speaker.
Recently, EventMobi had the unique opportunity to chat one-on-one with Wedell-Wedellsborg. We asked him for his insight and recommendations for running great session Q&A at your next event. When it comes to speakers and sessions, his simple but effective tips can help even the busiest event planner to stay ahead of the curve without breaking a sweat.
Innovation Is Right Under Your Nose
In his HBR blog post, Wedell-Wedellsborg states that traditional Q&A, which is used almost exclusively in every event, needs an overhaul. “The very format, I’d argue, is a dysfunctional relic of the past, unthinkingly added to agendas everywhere, and I believe we need to rethink it,“ he writes.
All of these Q&A issues boil down to two fundamental problems: audiences are typically unengaged and stuck in “listening mode”, and the lack of moderation often gives rise to a lack of quality of incoming questions. As a result, “nine times out of ten, the Q&A sessions end up being the worst part of the event”.
We asked him why it has been so hard for the industry to change, and he notes that some larger events have already embraced forward-thinking methods to improve. The problem, he notes, lies with the inertia that affects many smaller events.
“When people think of what really makes a good event, Q&A rarely comes to mind” he says. “People already have low expectations of the Q&A part, but that is also why there is a great opportunity to surprise and delight your audience.”
In their quest for easy and large-impact improvements, event planners often forget to consider if the traditional Q&A process is really working for them. But according to Wedell-Wedellsborg, wowing attendees with a streamlined session Q&A may just prove to be the low-hanging fruit that planners are seeking.
Keep It Simple, Speakers
Wedell-Wedellsborg believes that an underlying cause of inertia is the lack of simple and easy-to-understand solutions. He notes that even passing around a simple microphone can prove to be unwieldy, prone to technical difficulties, and awkward for attendees.
The challenge of finding a universally simple solution is difficult, but Wedell-Wedellsborg has a few techniques of his own which he has used with great results:
- The inverse Q&A: When speaking, try to pose a question to the audience. For example, you could ask them “For you, what was a key take-away from this session?” Everyone can have their say, and attendees have the opportunity to network with each other in a more natural manner.
- Ask for reactions, not just questions: Sometimes, attendees just want to comment. Opening up the discussion to observations can encourage more attendees to share.
- Have people vet the questions in groups: Allow people to congregate in groups and discuss questions amongst themselves. This self-selecting process adds an aspect of peer moderation that can improve the quality of questions that are asked.
Ask any attendee what they remember from a session and they may mention aspects from every stage of the presentation. But ask them how they felt about it, and you can be sure that they will most vividly remember how the speaker ended the talk. Ending off the session Q&A with a bang instead of a fizzle can leave lasting impressions on attendees, and Wedell-Wedellsborg believes that this is an opportunity for planners of all event sizes.
“Q&A is one of those things that we don’t normally spend time on, but it is an aspect which could drastically improve the quality of the event,” he says.
In order to turn more attendees into active participants, many planners are opting for new technology options. As an example take a look at EventMobi’s real-time Q&A feature built into each event app session – a great way to get attendees asking questions and voting up their favorites to the top of the list.
To learn more about Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg’s work in business innovation and his speaking topics, check out his publications including Innovation As Usual: How To Help Your People Bring Great Ideas To Life as well as his official blog.