Updated: Jul 13
When producing a live Q&A segment, it is essential to brief all participants beforehand. Talent should be prepared well in advance of the event, and the audience should be given a clear understanding of the flow before the Q&A begins.
Preparing questions in advance can prevent unplanned issues and give your speaker a boost in confidence. Make sure to consider all the pros and cons of pre-screening questions for your specific event.
Secure proper equipment and think through all technical considerations to ensure a flawless execution. Determine what technical setup is right for the scope of your event.
Live Q&A segments have become a powerful tool in experiential marketing, allowing brands to connect directly with their audience and foster meaningful interactions. In digital scenarios, audience engagement is a breeze. When your presenters are comfortably stationed in front of their computers, receiving questions in real time is as simple as a button click, thanks to the digital tools offered by platforms like Vimeo.
In my experience in the industry, and during my time as the Head of Live Video & Studios at Gradient, the complication comes into the mix when your presenters are physically on stage. Their ability to review, analyze, and respond to questions on the fly is limited or, in some cases, impossible. In these situations, it becomes crucial to establish alternative methods that enable the speaker to connect with the audience seamlessly.
Prepare Your Speakers
Preparing your speakers is crucial for delivering a successful live Q&A segment. Provide them with the necessary information and resources to familiarize themselves with the session's topic, audience, and objectives. Encourage them to research and gather relevant insights to enhance their responses. Equipping your speakers with the right knowledge and confidence will enable them to engage the audience effectively and provide valuable insights.
For example, if you're hosting a Q&A session on a new product release, ensure your speakers are well-versed in its features, benefits, and target audience. This will enable them to address questions with authority and credibility, instilling confidence in your brand.
When Gradient produced JAB’s 2023 investor conference, we understood the need to have the talent prepared for both their individual presentation and their live Q&A session. That’s why we held a talent rehearsal and briefing session well in advance of the event. This allowed the talent to feel comfortable, confident and prepared for their role.
Actionable steps to prepare your speakers include:
Familiarize the speaker with the audience. Give them insights into the audience demographics, interests, and relevant background information. This knowledge helps the speaker tailor their responses effectively and connect with the audience on a deeper level.
Rehearse potential questions and work with the speaker to anticipate and practice responses to potential questions. This rehearsal process allows the speaker to refine their answers, ensuring clarity and conciseness during the live Q&A session.
Encourage active listening. Advise the speaker to actively listen to the question before formulating their response. This ensures that the speaker understands the query fully and can provide a relevant and tailored answer.
Get a Great Moderator
A skilled moderator plays a vital role in orchestrating a successful live Q&A segment. They help maintain the flow of the session, ensure questions are addressed promptly, maintain time limits, and facilitate engaging discussions. A great moderator possesses excellent communication skills, the ability to think independently, and a deep understanding of the topic and audience.
Consider the following qualities when selecting a moderator:
Strong communication skills: A moderator should be able to facilitate conversations, ask thought-provoking questions, and engage both the speakers and the audience.
Knowledge of the subject matter: The moderator should understand the topic well to steer the conversation effectively and provide context when necessary.
Ability to manage time: Keeping the session on track and ensuring that all important questions are covered within the allocated time is crucial.
An effective moderator can transform a Q&A segment into an engaging and interactive experience for everyone involved.
Pre-Planning Your Questions
While live questions undoubtedly add a sense of spontaneity and excitement to any event, relying solely on audience-generated inquiries can occasionally lead to awkward lulls or gaps in the show's flow. So, to mitigate this, I recommend pulling questions as far in advance as possible. Now, there are a couple of ways we can do this.
Public-Facing Questions: If your livestream is public-facing, you can engage your audience through social channels, newsletters, or other direct-to-consumer methodologies. While you can do basic social blasts, I recommend gamifying your prompts or including some incentive to ensure higher engagement on the post. Social prompting is also a great way to capitalize on your existing experiential event through these additional marketing opportunities that help promote your brand/event prior to the activation.
Internal-facing Questions: If your livestream is internally facing (a training, town hall, or investor event,) you can put together beautiful newsletters through services like Constant Contact. The newsletter serves as a point to increase engagement with your poll and a methodology to re-remind staff about your event date.
Fail-safe questions: I also recommend always having 2-3 pre-planned, planted questions as a fail-safe. These questions should be lines you rehearse with your main host/presenter(s) so they can be used seamlessly off the cuff. Suppose there are awkward pauses between questions, or our presenter needs to quickly bail out of an awkward interaction. In that case, these will be deployed as needed.
These methods above can make the difference between an awkward Q&A experience and something impactful. They will allow the speaker to dive into the presentation confidently, knowing there are engaging topics to discuss right from the start. In addition, these pre-planned questions act as a safety net, ensuring a seamless transition into the Q&A portion of the event while maintaining the overall rhythm and energy of the show.
Be Technically Prepared
Technical preparedness is essential to avoid glitches or disruptions during your live Q&A segment. Consider the following aspects to ensure a smooth and professional production:
For most live presentations, I recommend opting for dynamic microphones. These have a small cardioid pickup pattern that will minimize unwanted noise. Ensure that whatever mic you choose has a grille piece designed for vocals that will reduce plosives and provide further protection from background noise compared to one designed for instruments. A great example is the Shure ULXD2, which features an SM58 vocal microphone capsule in a wireless form factor. Each speaker should receive their own microphone to prevent awkward handoffs and ensure consistent audio quality.
Test all equipment onsite and the internet connectivity of all virtual guests using speed test sites before the event. This is essential to avoid any technical hiccups during the Q&A.
If your production has designated Q&A areas, like a podium, ensure you have the personnel who can navigate guests to these areas and usher them from it when finished. If you don’t have a designated Q&A area, you’ll need PAs to fill the position of “Mic Runner.” You’ll want to ensure a Mic Runner doesn’t have to cover a large area/distance. Time how long it takes a mic runner to reach certain areas and factor that time into the number of runners you might need to obtain for your show. In both scenarios, you want to minimize the “dead air” between questions as much as possible. This will make for a more engaging program.
Communicate show flow details with your audio operator. For instance, with podiums, you may alternate between left and right podiums. Preparing your audio operator to know when to mute/unmute will ensure clean transitions and minimal confusion.
Preparing the Audience for Q&A
A successful Q&A segment goes beyond just preparing the main speaker. It involves setting the stage for an engaged and enthusiastic audience. Here are some key considerations for audience prep:
Establish Clear Guidelines: Communicate the format and rules of the Q&A segment to the audience beforehand. Let them know how and when to submit questions. Whether questions will come through a custom website, an online streaming platform, or even a conferencing software like Microsoft Teams, it is important to communicate how audience members can submit their questions.
Promote Pre-Event Engagement: Encourage the audience to submit their questions beforehand, allowing them to reflect and craft thoughtful inquiries. This allows for better-prepared responses from the main speaker and ensures a diverse range of questions.
Create a Safe and Respectful Environment: Emphasize the importance of respectful communication during the Q&A session. Set the tone by encouraging constructive dialogue while discouraging any form of hostility or rudeness. This fosters an inclusive atmosphere where participants feel comfortable asking questions.
Engage with Social Media: Leverage social media platforms to generate buzz and build anticipation for the Q&A segment. Create designated hashtags, encourage online discussions, and highlight the opportunity for audience members to have their questions answered. This helps generate interest and engagement even before the event begins.
Reach Out to Gradient Experiential About Live Events
At Gradient Experiential, we strive to push the boundaries of video production, constantly enhancing audience engagement, and elevating the overall event experience. Our expertise in managing Q&A segments, technical preparations, and creating comfortable environments for speakers enables us to deliver exceptional results. Partner with Gradient Experience, and let's embark on an exhilarating journey together, redefining the art of live video production and audience engagement.
For inquiries on live production, you can either use our inquiry form here, call our office line at: (212) 997-9742, or email us at Livestream@WeAreGradient.com