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Two weeks ago, we gave you the basics on hosting your Zoom Video Webinar. Today we’d like to delve deeper to address the one thing that gives every webinar host a case of sweaty palms: the questions & answers (Q&A) portion of the event. This is the moment when the attendee has a voice and is welcome to ask any question. They are legion, and you are but one host with a humble internet connection. How will you manage to leave this arena unscathed?
No webinar is complete without a smooth Q&A session. By using Zoom Video Webinars, you’ve already taken the first step in ensuring that your experience — as well as the experience of all attendees — is as vivid and professional as possible. But when communicating through our platform, you’ll come to terms with the fact that you’re only winning half the battle by choosing the right software. The other half involves delivering a purposeful, professional presentation complete with a few moments of dialogue.
To have a smooth and functional Q&A, you’ll have to follow a few simple rules:
If you’re hosting a long (1 hour+) webinar, then it’s time to implement something a little more strict than “yeah, let’s talk about this stuff for a while.” You’re going to have to address each major point in a “segment,” and each segment should to have its own Q&A. This keeps the audience engaged and diversifies the conversation a bit.
If all your audience hears for the next three hours is your voice and the voices of the presenters, there’s going to be a silent digital slumber party and you won’t be invited. Avoid taking over the entire webinar and instead allow the audience time to recapitulate on some points that may have not been clear to them.
You should also let your audience know in advance that they can submit their questions at any time, but they can expect you to answer them in these regular post-segment intervals.
Are you an educator presenting to high-school students? A Silicon Valley pioneer pitching a new chip architecture? A startup looking for investment? Think about who you are for a second, then think about who your audience is. Does the content of your webinar provoke thought?
If you make a presentation that stirs the curiosity of your audience, you’re going to get good questions. If you don’t match up to the expectations of the demographic you’re presenting to, then you’re going to hear a distinct chirping sound in the distance during your Q&A. To give your webinar life, you need to understand what the people you’re talking to want to hear about.
As harsh as it may sound, if you’re running a startup, venture capitalists are not willing to hear an hour-long prelude on how your entire operation started in a garage somewhere in Milwaukee. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t include it. Just don’t make a third of the webinar about it. What kind of questions would you expect from this story? You’re probably not going to hear a potential investor ask you, “So, would you say the garage got really drafty in the winter?”
Try recording a rehearsal of your presentation. Ask someone you trust to listen to the recording and ask a few questions based on what they heard. You need to shape your webinar in such a way that the questions asked will be meaningful to the rest of the audience. If you’re not constructing this kind of webinar, try again.
Learning your demographic will also allow you to better anticipate questions. Is this group very familiar with your topic or are they new to the field? What are their priorities? What probably drew them to this webinar? Asking yourself these questions will help you anticipate your attendees’ questions.
While you want to give your audience a cue (a prompting followed by a pause) that makes it clear that you’re willing to answer questions at this time, do not stretch it out excessively. Someone is going to want to break that awkward silence with a question that might not be very beneficial to the conversation at hand. During those moments, for some reason, the willingness for audiences to ask questions dwindles as you go further into the webinar. Instead, take a break of maybe 10 seconds in which you give the most active of attendees time to think of something they wanted to ask – 10 seconds is actually a long time when measured in silence! Eventually, as you start answering questions, the shyer members of the audience will muster up the courage to ask you something in continuation to what’s being discussed. Don’t take breaks that are too short, though. You risk losing engagement that way, too!
You can also remind your shy audience members that on Zoom Video Webinars they can ask questions anonymously if they prefer.
Zoom Video Webinar has a wonderful Q&A system, but it doesn’t have to be the only thing you use for Q&A. We hate telling you to purchase extra hardware, but it would be helpful to have two or more screens running (or at least a supplementary tablet) that can monitor feeds in other places like social media. You can create a hashtag for your webinar on Twitter and monitor that hashtag during the webinar to look for interesting points or questions.
The World Chess Federation did this in its broadcasts of its 2014 World Chess Championship in Sochi, Russia. While grandmaster Magnus Carlsen was locked in a battle of the minds to defend his championship, there were several long pauses between moves, which gave the presenters plenty of time to comb through Twitter, searching for mentions of the #CarlsenAnand hashtag. When they found something interesting, they popped it up on the screen and commented on it. They were able to have a dialogue with people all over the web in this manner.
Just remember that thinking outside the box gives you major points in the webinar scene. Using Zoom Video Webinars gives you even more. If you haven’t had a taste of our software yet, we recommend you get started on a free account!