How do you start a Q&A session. If you’ve ever been to an event and you might be watching this video because you’re hosting event or you’re about to moderate a Q&A session of some type and you want it to go really well, right? If you’ve ever been to a QA session that typically follows the pattern of awesome keynote happens and then they go to Q&A and somebody stands up and talks about themselves for 2 minutes and then sort of kind of doesn’t even really ask a question. In this video, I’m going to give you a really innovative and different strategy to host phenomenal Q&A sessions. I’m Chad, I’m the co-author of a book called Ask Powerful Questions Create Conversations That Matter. And by the end of this video, you will know exactly how to do both. Here we go.
Blog Note: The following is an adapted and edited transcript of one of our daily YouTube tutorials. We know sometimes it is easier to scroll through written content which is why we are publishing here. Because of that, there may be typos or phrases that seem out of context. You’ll definitely be able to get the main idea. To get the full context, visit our YouTube channel here. And if you want to watch the video on this topic specifically, you can scroll down to the bottom of this post to access it as well.
Please, after you are done watching this video, never ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever end a keynote or a workshop or anything else with a Q&A. This is the first element actually. Before you even start a QA you need to know that it actually, I really believe should not be the absolute last thing. If you’ve got a phenomenal keynote speaker, invite them to make a powerful closing. Or if you are the presenter or the speaker the Q&A should be the second to last thing that you do. You want to…. Say you’re going to speak for 60 minutes. You want to speak for maybe 45 minutes then open up 10 minutes for Q&A but leave 5 minutes for a really powerful closing on your terms as opposed to the audience’s terms. Because the primacy recency effect in psychology says, “We remember what happens first and we remember what happens last most.” You don’t want to roll the dice with what happens last. You want to steer the closing to the most memorable, impactful way possible. If that’s a really great story that you want to share or a stat or a question that you want to leave people with, that’s a way more powerful way than ending with an audience member’s question.
How to start a Q&A?
First of all, do not create a microphone in an aisle or just have people unmute virtually and pop out a question. Silence is one of the great arts of conversation. Maybe I would edit this quote maybe a little bit. And silence is one of the great lost arts of conversation. Typically, when we do a Q&A session, all this content gets dumped on an audience and then we immediately say, “Any questions?” [Cricket Sound]. And then there’s this kind of like awkward shuffle of people. Everybody’s heart rate goes up if they’re thinking about it and asking a question. They’re like, “I don’t know what I’m going to ask.” And that’s the absolute wrong place that you want people to be in. Because if people’s heart rates are really high during a Q&A, they’re going to go to their default which is like mumbling, bumbling talking about themselves not formulating a really well-crafted, intentional, curiosity-based question. By far, the most impactful way to start a Q&A session is by inviting people to take some silence and come up with the question internally before they even ask it. You can actually… You know, the best way to avoid awkward silence is to create productive silence. And so, perhaps depending on your context, the best part… The best way to start a Q&A might be 30 seconds of total silence and you might frame it like this. Verbatim, you might say, “Whether you plan to stand up and ask a question or not, or whether you plan to unmute and ask a question or not, go ahead and take 30 seconds of total silence to just rewind the tape, think about what ___ has just shared with us and formulate a question in your brain. What are you naturally, genuinely curious to know about what was just shared?”
Let that silence sit for a little bit. Once you have planted a question or once you’ve invited people to plant a question in their own brain, you know that there’s a ton of really great curiosity in the audience. You have a handful of different options. In this video, I’m just going to share 2 paths you can take. The first one is just the quick and immediate path. The second one will take a little bit more time but create much, much higher engagement and a much more useful Q&A session. The first one, quick one is simply invite people to ask a question, right? Now, the problem with this is when you invite a large audience to ask a question, you’re favoring extroverts curiosity. And to be honest, usually, introverts have some of the best questions, the most thoughtful questions, the ones that benefit everybody in the room. What I might do as the host or the moderator and what I often do because a big part of my job is going in and speaking and facilitating workshops with some of the top organizations and universities on the planet. And what I will often do is I will speak facilitate this experience and then I’ll get to the end and say, “Alright. Ask me anything time. Everybody think of a question. What I’d love to do to just kind of hear what you are curious about is popcorn out a bunch of questions. You’ve got your question. Hold it. By the way, really great questions tend to begin with how and what.
If your question doesn’t fit that mold, feel free to maybe adapt it.” Little secret, by giving people that template or that directive, that really great questions begin with how or what, you ensure that people actually ask a question rather than mumbling out a bunch of sentences and contexts and all this other stuff. Then followed by a question because for this, I want people to just popcorn out 10 to 15 questions so that I as the speaker can hear what are people collectively curious about and what I might even say to the group is “What I’d love to do is popcorn out 10 to 15 questions just really quick.” I’m not going to answer them. I’m just going to hear 10 to 15 questions and that will help me kind of understand engage what are we collectively curious about so I can offer a response that benefits everyone rather than the one person who asks the question. Do you see how that method is really, really powerful to make sure that the Q&A session is really engaging for everyone. The second method that I’ll share in this video is just simply a paired share. If you as the speaker or the host don’t feel comfortable um facilitating out those popcorn questions in a large group audience. And by the way, I will do that virtually in a group of 300 to 500 and in person with a group of 8,000. I will popcorn out. It doesn’t matter the group and also in a group of 15 people as well. It doesn’t matter the group size for me. That method is a really great way for you to take on the role of harvesting people’s natural curiosity.
The second method though we’ll call simply a paired share. And this is you have people come up with a question and you say before you kick your question out into the larger room, sometimes it’s helpful to just let our brains process that question out loud. If your virtual split people up into breakouts 3 to 4 people each with the aim of just going around and either with their partner or their small group, sharing the question that they would like to ask. And then with any extra time they have, decide on which question or which variation of a question the entire group is kind of votes to put forward. This is a really cool way to harvest collective curiosity because (1) you have people share it which ensures that when they actually ask a question, it’s just a clearly stated question. It doesn’t take a lot of time explaining context and it allows the the speaker or whoever the expert that you’ve brought in for that moment to share their wisdom with the audience.
Here are 2 ways… We’ve got about seven more to do Q&A sessions. Feel free to check out some of my other videos. If you’re intrigued and you want to read the book Ask Powerful Questions: Create Conversations That Matter, Will and I were quite happy and quite surprised are still quite happy and quite surprised to see that it’s just lingering as a number one Amazon bestseller and has for the last couple years at the time of recording this. Really great book that will help you craft really phenomenal questions and create conversations that really matter. I hope this was one for you.
Have an awesome day.