It is common practice at conferences to mix presentations with questions from the audience. Despite the fact that most attendees have smart devices and phones, the questions from the audience are still mostly handled in an old fashioned way. These low-tech styles include:
- A “moderator” walking around with a microphone and finding the nearest person with a raised hand to ask a question. Not only is this slow and time consuming, but is rather arbitrary and not very democratic.
- Another way is for a group of people to hand out cards to the audience and then pick them up during the question period. This is another time consuming tactic. It also leaves it up to the discretion to the person “up front” to decide which questions get answered.
Despite all the advances in technology in recent years, these techniques are decades old and are really a throwback to a bygone era.
Fortunately, the popularity of smartphones make it easy for attendees to get the questions they want answered. Here is how some of the most popular software for “Session Question and Answer” work:
- Native apps have a question and answer feature tied directly to the page that provides information about the session.
- Attendees can directly type in their questions of interest and post them to the public.
- Here is the best part – other attendees can vote whether or not they want the question answered. This is powerful for a number of reasons. First, there are often more questions than can be handled, so it is in everyone’s best interest to see that the most important ones are covered. Secondly, there are always some people that place self-servicing or poorly worded or just plain old uninteresting posts. It is nice for the public to put these people in their place.
- As the votes are tallied the moderator can easily see which questions are the most popular and post them to the speaker or panel.
- If the question is of particular popularity, the presenters can answer the question immediately rather than at a “designated time.”
- After the question is answered the moderator (or volunteer) can type the answers into a log. The question and responses can then be archived (off the main question list) for future reference.
- It is also helpful for the moderator to flag questions as inappropriate so show organizers can speak to disruptive attendees. Some questions are also entered by mistake, so it is helpful to easily delete them.
After the session, the attendees can go back into the Session Q&A and review what was discussed.
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