I heard this great analogy from a colleague of mine on the role of an event moderator. He told me: “event moderator is like a driver who is able to drive your event happily to its destination or steer it off the cliff.”
But just as GPS systems show drivers the way, there are Q&A and polling tools that can assist you on the roads of Q&A sessions and panel discussions and help you get attendees to the final stop. Sound and safe. And very happy!
As a moderator, you will find in this article tips for two of the most widespread sessions – Q&A sessions and panel discussions – and you will learn how to:
- Use Slido to address delegates’ most burning questions
- Get your delegates to participate and learn more
- Make the event speakers and panelists shine
Alright, let’s get started.
Introduction of the tool
Just as a driver has to switch on the GPS to start the navigation, so it is needed to introduce a Q&A and polling tool to get attendees onboard and have them use it during the event.
Dedicating as little as 2-3 minutes at the beginning of the event can radically boost the adoption rate and overall interaction. As a moderator, you can introduce the tool yourself (you can get inspiration from our script) and then run a warm-up poll to get people into the tool.
Asking a light yet relevant question is not only engaging, but you can also find out more about your audience and adjust your narrative according to the results.
Better to see once than to read 100 times, you can watch how event moderator Gerrit Heijkoop aced the introduction of Slido.
If designed and facilitated well, Q&A sessions are often the most interactive part of conferences and, for many delegates, they represent the moment of the highest learning value. And for you as a moderator, this is a time when you can let the speakers shine and help people find the answers they came for.
Getting people to participate
With Q&A tools, you can crowdsource attendees’ questions while giving everyone an equal chance to participate in the discussion. On top of that, attendees can upvote the questions they like the most and add topics to the list of questions you prepared.
Using the GPS system analogy, by allowing the audience to vote on the submitted questions, Q&A tools can show you the direction in which attendees want to take the discussion.
The audience questions are automatically sorted by popularity so you always stay on top of the most popular questions. But you can highlight any of the lower-ranking questions and bring it to the top if you find it relevant for the discussion.
Working with submitted questions
Asking questions that your audience submitted might be the most critical element for keeping people engaged. Should you neglect or overlook them, the audience members might refrain from posting more questions in the future and, as a result, the overall interaction might drop.
If you’re running out of Q&A time, try to at least briefly comment on the questions.
Thank you for your questions; I encourage you to vote for the questions you want to hear answered most as we may not have time to answer all of them. But we will take two with the highest number of votes. All the unanswered questions will be asked during the panel discussion at the end.
Extra tip: If you fear a lack of questions, you can simply send in your own questions in advance to help the conversation take off. Moreover, attendees can select from the submitted questions and give you a pointer on which way to lead the dialogue before they jump into the discussion.
Panels can be a great way to showcase a number of perspectives and provide real-world examples and case studies to attendees. But as Carol Roth writes, “panels need to be run like a lively talk show to be engaging,” ideally with active input from the audience.
Involving your audience early
During panel discussions, Q&A platforms work particularly well as a navigation tool for steering the talk.
One of the most interactive panels I saw was the one where the moderator had attendees submit their questions right from the start and he incorporated them as early as within the first 10 minutes. This way he brought down the barrier that often rises between the audience and the panelists and help.
Don’t be scared to do the same and build a communication channel between your panelists and the audience right from the start.
Gauging your audience opinion
You can also boost the interaction and create valuable insights through live polling. At Conference Summit in London, panel moderator Bansri Shah ran the opening live poll aiming to gauge audience opinion on the given topic. Once the polling was over, she prompted the panelists to comment on the results and contribute with their views.
This way, she ensured the presenters kicked off the panel with the relevant speech while also making the participants feel heard.
Extra tip: You can also create a discussion among your audience and bring in their take on the topic. Run the poll that will divide the audience into two opposing groups and let them share their opinions. Naturally, have your panelists join the talk too. You can read more about this use case here.
The tool isn’t obviously the destination. But it can guide you in the right direction so you achieve your ultimate objective – a successful event which leaves people inspired, speakers fulfilled and event planners satisfied when hearing the words of appraisal from their attendees.
Photo Credits: Adapted from Next Conf, Karlis Drambans