Live webinars offer a model forum for speakers to deliver information and innovation to the masses, all in a single online session. However, many webinar presenters miss out on one key advantage of real-time communication: audience interaction. To avoid losing the interest of your participants, hosting a webinar Q&A session is an excellent way to engage your audience.
The Why: Benefits Of Hosting a Webinar Q&A Session During Your Webinar
More often than not, webinar hosts simply run through their slides and notecards, hoping that their message somehow sticks without encouraging a dialogue with listeners. In other words, they talk at the audience, rather than with them. As a result, they miss out on the chance to make a meaningful connection with the listeners and may risk losing their attention before the presentation ends.
Generating an intentional webinar Q&A dialogue between you and your audience that yields sustainable impact can be a surprisingly straightforward fix. If you feel like you’re simply racing through a planned itinerary without actually connecting with your crowd, using a webinar Q&A in your next live session can prove an easy solution.
In this section, we’ll share the reasons why you should start integrating webinar Q&A sessions during your live webinars. Beyond enhancing interaction and engagement with listeners, allowing for a question and answer segment in your conference yields a wide range of benefits, including:
Hold Attendee Interest
Hosting a webinar means working hard to command and hold audience interest from start to finish. Allowing for inquiries throughout your session via webinar Q&A can pique guest interest and encourage listeners to stay tuned in so they don’t miss an opportunity to ask for the specific information they need.
Boost Energy Levels
Not only can a webinar Q&A hold audience interest, it can also prove a major mood boost throughout your session. As you hit various time milestones in your web conference, you may find that energy levels take a dip. However, you’ll notice an instant upswing in energy levels when you take a break from speaking and ask others for input.
Watch the full Wednesday Webinar Wisdom episode on hosting a webinar Q&A session
Personalize Your Brand
Webinars provide an excellent way to help your listeners put a face to your brand…without an actual face-to-face meeting. Fielding questions via webinar Q&A is a great way to humanize the session and achieve a more personal connection with your audience. The audience collaboration can ultimately further strengthening brand identity and exposure.
Establish Industry Authority
Anyone can read a script. However, subject matter experts can effectively answer most ad hoc inquiries. Providing information during a webinar Q&A can establish your credibility on any given topic as well as build trust (another key ingredient to developing brand identity) with your participants.
Emphasize Message / Promote Brand
Every question you take acts as another opportunity to reinforce your message and most salient selling points. Directly promoting your specific products/services in the presentation segment can feel forced and set an awkward vibe. However, during the webinar Q&A section, with its more informal tone often lends itself to a more comfortable way to market your brand.
Best of all, every audience member will have a chance to hear your answers, further reinforcing your overall speaking objectives.
Strengthen Your Future Webinar Presentations
Most importantly, including a webinar Q&A segment in your presentation can deliver a major return on investment for future webinars. Write down every question you field; each inquiry grants you invaluable insight on information that interests your audience. Additionally, writing down the questions you receive will help you strengthen your delivery the next time someone asks it.
The How: Optimize Results With Your Webinar Q&A
Now that you understand why you should include a webinar Q&A segments in your webinar, it’s important to know how to effectively implement them throughout your conference. A successful inquiry session requires strategic planning and preparation. However, don’t let the process intimidate you. Knowing a few easy-to-implement tips can help maximize impact with your webinar Q&A.
Put Inquiry Segments On The Agenda
Don’t simply verbalize you’ll allow for questions; list these segments on your webinar agenda or on one of your introductory slides for all participants to see. Putting the webinar Q&A session in writing lets them know what to expect during the presentation. Knowing when you’ll pause for input can encourage your attendees to stay focused on what you have to say until it’s their turn to speak again.
Know Your Audience
Every webinar has a specific targeted audience. Knowing who’s tuning in allows you to modify your presentation for your participants. There are many factors to consider when customizing your session for each individual listener. Think about details such as:
- Attendee demographics (geographic location, age, etc.)
- Degree of formality
- Relationship to attendees: Peers, clients, students, etc.
Knowing this information prior to your live webinar can help you create a final session that truly resonates with your guests and prompts thoughtful inquiries.
Also, when speaking to multiple people at a single company, you will also want to customize your online conference to suit each individual organization. Modify your template to include brand-specific information; tailoring every webinar will provide a comfort level to listeners and encourage them to participate in the webinar Q&A segments of your presentation.
If it’s your first time hosting a webinar on a specific subject or topic, you will want to proactively anticipate some potential questions so you can come prepared with articulate answers that help further emphasize your main points. Similarly, if you’ve presented on an upcoming topic before, you should think about questions that have been asked in the past. Use any notes as a guide (and not as a script) so you sound natural when answering.
Going forward, put a plan in place to have someone take notes of all questions asked during the webinar. Tracking trends in what people want to know more about can give you insight on tailoring your exhibition in the future.
Pro Tip: Come prepared with a few relevant questions you think your audience would likely ask. Then, if none of your attendees ask questions at the beginning of your webinar Q&A, you’ll have a few backup questions to share to keep the momentum going. Oftentimes, webinar Q&A sessions are slow to start, so preparing a few canned questions will help break the ice.
Nothing says a live webinar should only have one speaker throughout its duration. In fact, adding panelists into the discussion can have a significant impact on the session’s results, particularly during the webinar Q&A segments. Co-hosts with unique areas of expertise can offer invaluable insight to listeners beyond the basic scope of your demonstration.
Guest speakers can also deliver an added dynamic to the webinar Q&A session, further entrenching your brand with everyone who has tuned in. Finally, adding panelists during the questioning can add a very practical perk; it can provide an opportunity for you to rest and catch your breath a bit before you have to start presenting again.
If you’re hosting a webinar Q&A session via chat submissions, you’ll want to tell your audience how and where to submit their questions.
If you opt for a live audio Q&A, sharing instructions is even more critical. You may be surprised to learn just how often background noise and the inability to un-mute a microphone adversely affect a webinar. Fortunately, high-performing software programs make the entire process fairly intuitive; however, you always run the risk of barking dogs and unplanned “dead air” silence ruining the flow of your speech if users aren’t given a little advance instruction. Give your participants a quick tutorial before beginning the session so they will know how to quickly go from listener to speaker when the time comes for inquiries.
Set Time Limits
It’s important to set upfront time limits with your webinar Q&A sessions. You have limited bandwidth to get your information to the group. Fielding questions for an extensive stretch not only gets you off track, but you also run the risk of losing the attention of audience members who simply want to keep moving forward with the demonstration. Worried of having to cut questions short? Don’t be; tell listeners who haven’t had a chance to ask their questions that you’ll happily connect with them after the webinar.
Offer Topic Suggestions
If you distribute webinar Q&A sessions throughout your presentation, you may want to offer topic suggestions for each segment so it’s relevant to what’s been most recently outlined in the demonstration. Also, when giving your audience a focus, it’s okay to also outline subjects that will not be discussed, such as confidential information or products/services not yet available.
Expect The Pregnant Pause
Sometimes a crowd needs a little push to actively participate in your Q&A. Nerves and fear of asking something irrelevant can prevent people from speaking up. Make it as easy as possible on them; combat the prolonged pregnant pause by proactively offering up various topics that often warrant questions. They will welcome you getting them started. Even a gentle nudge can encourage them to keep the momentum going.
Value Attendee Input
Your audience wants to feel like you actually value their input. Go beyond just answering what they ask. Give them encouragement by thanking them for their inquiry and showcasing to the audience the thoughtfulness and insight behind the question. Not only will valuing their input encourage them to ask again during other webinar Q&A segments, it will also inspire others to get in on the conversation as well.
Honesty is always the best policy when managing your webinar Q&A. Many speakers feel tempted to embellish or over-promise as a way to captivate the audience. While you may gain some momentary attention during your webinar, exaggeration will generally bring backlash. Always give straightforward, honest answers to establish credibility and build trust amongst your audience. Additionally, don’t be afraid to let a questioner know if you didn’t understand what’s being asked.
Whether you need further clarification or it’s simply a technology issue hindering your audio, take the time to let listeners know you didn’t quite catch what’s being asked. Most importantly, if you don’t know the answer, say so. Not only will your guests appreciate your honesty, it also gives you a reason to follow up with them once you have an answer, for future conversations, the ultimate webinar win.
To begin hosting your own amazing webinars, check out BigMarker.