You might be here because you want to find out how to run the best online Q&A session. Or at least you want to collect some best practices for running online Q&A sessions. I am Chad Littlefield, the co-author of Ask Powerful Questions Create Conversations That Matter.
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I really love questions but even more I love helping people create experiences and conversations that really, really matter. And in this video, I’m going to unpack the glasses and chair method which immediately following this video you can implement and adapt in your own online Q&A sessions. This is perfectly applicable whether you have 10 or 12 people, like, 10 or 12 CEOs in a CEO group or whether you have 30 students in a classroom or 300 people at a virtual conference and you just had your main stage, main virtual stage keynote show up. Without further ado, glasses and chairs method. Let’s get into it.
The Chair Method
Both the glasses in the chair method, it’s a really simple subtle secret to create a totally different atmosphere for a Q&A session because ideally, if you’ve ever attended any conference or been a part of either hosting a Q&A session or attended them, you know that they can be really really awesome and they can be complete garbage, right? On one hand, you can have a q a where everybody has to line up in front of a microphone and ask their question which really just turns into them nervously talking for 2 minutes about this time that they had this thing where they remember this, right? Not necessarily useful. You want people to ask crisp powerful questions that let the presenter speaker or panel respond with some brilliance and some wisdom and some insight that gets dumped on the rest of the group.
To do that, I think you’ve got to create a different atmosphere. You’ve got to do something to increase people’s psychological safety. Because when people nervously ramble, it’s partially because they’re nervous. One of these methods I picked up by accident and just realized on accident, the chair method.
The Glass Method
The other method I picked up from a lovely teacher a mentor named Matt Church who I don’t even know that he was intentionally sharing or teaching this I just observed in what he was doing. Matt’s been voted the top professional speaker in Australia.He’s this amazingly dynamic ultra brilliant dude. And I was on a virtual workshop with him. And he sharing all this ideas and then he took a break and he could see that the chat was kind of filling up with questions. And because he needs glasses to read what was in the chat, he put on his glasses and looked at it. And I don’t know if he even noticed this but it was a really really clever strategy because what it did was basically say, “Hey, everybody. I’m listening to you. I’m going to take a break from sharing content, content, content. And I’m going to listen to you which on an online Q&A session may look like reading questions.”
The glasses method is whether you need glasses or not develop some sort of symbol or cue that you are looking in checking into the group’s questions. This is really really useful if you want to almost kind of embed a Q&A throughout. If you’re doing a training for example for 2 hours, you might not want to hold questions for the last 10 minutes, right? Questions might come up as they arise. And in fact, by using this method, I might say at the beginning of the group to say, “Hey at any point in time, anything that you’re curious about or that you’d like to pause on and dive a little bit deeper into, turn on caps lock and type into the chat your question.” And every handful of minutes we’re going to take a little commercial break and I’m going to put on my glasses or you might have a Q&A hat or you might bring in your question answerer some sort of visual cue to say, “Hey, I’m paying attention to you hang out for a minute while I am able to hear your questions.” And even though that might take 15 seconds for you to read 5 questions, that’s like 10 times faster than if you had 5 to 10 people verbally ask a question. You can run a very efficient online q a session in that way. That is the glasses method in short.
Chair method, now you might have noticed as I’m like moving around, it’s really important for me as somebody who is every single week on most days working with some of the coolest universities and organizations, leaders and educators delivering virtual remote keynotes or workshops. It’s really important for me to stand because a portion of your energy translates through the camera. lt me speak from a place of I. When I am sitting, my energy is a little bit more chill, it’s a little bit more relaxed. Which is perfect for a Q&A session. I might facilitate my keynote, share all these stories, infuse energy into the group when I’m standing up presenting. And then at the end, I may even say to the group, “Hey, we’ve been together for 40 minutes. Your brains are probably on fire with all these ideas. You might have questions. You might have you might be skeptical about some things.
You might be really excited about others, you might want clarification on some things. I want to just open up this time for a little ask me anything.” And I will pull my chair from out of frame and have a seat. And it’s a spinny chair. I’ll have a seat because when I’m in this place, what I’ve noticed from hundreds and hundreds of remote keynotes and workshops that I’ve led is something shifts in the group’s brain when I sit down. Even though my presentation style is extremely conversational and authentic and I’m yeah I don’t put on like an act necessarily, I’m just me. But there’s something when I sit down, that’s like, “Oh, I kind of feel like I’m grabbing coffee with Chad.” And I would say in an online Q&A session it’s even cooler because unlike if you’re in a conference room with a thousand people and I’m like this little tiny pixel way far away from you, in Zoom, I’m right there, right? In a Q&A session, we might as well be in a one-on-one Zoom, a one-on-one conversation. Even if I’m leading an online conference for the University of Nebraska for 350 people. It’s amazing how intimate zoom can feel when you’re really intentional about it. Pulling up the chair simply shifts state. Now, a little bonus tip at the end. Your Q&A session should never, in my opinion, should never be the last thing that you do. The Q&A session should be the second to last thing. So, the beautiful aspect of the chair method is I’ll pull up the chair, we’ll do a Q&A for a little bit and sometimes I even have a timer that goes off 5 minutes before the official closing.
And I’ll move the chair out of the way and say, “Beautiful, I know that there are some unanswered questions. I’m going to send a video follow-up with some more resources, links to answers to some of the questions that we didn’t get to in our time here. But right now, I want to end with a story, an activity, an exercise”, something really intentional, right? I might invite the group to popcorn out some closing statements or A-HAs that they had or actions they’re excited to take. Or I might invite the group to type one word in all caps that represents the energy they’re leaving this session with. Some positive thing that invites the group’s contribution to wrap up on a high note. Because Q&A are awesome, they’re really, really fun. But they’re typically a more relaxed conversational energy.
Personally, I want to leave the group on a high note because I want them to click end meeting or to log off or to switch into their next session if it’s a virtual conference and feel like, “Holy smokes, that was amazing”, right? “That was so good”. That’s the sentiment I want to send people off. And so, your Q&A should be the second to last thing that you do and you’ve got to be really deliberate with your closing. This was really fun hanging out in cyberspace. Thanks for being with me. If you made it to this point in the video, you’re exactly the kind of people I love to hang out with. Here’s some free stuff. In the link below, if you’re interested in Ask Powerful Questions Create Conversations That Matter, it’s been a number one bestseller on Amazon for a good bit and you can get it there. But you can also get a free excerpt in the link below. We kind of put together a free digital connection toolkit. And it includes a digital version of our We! Connect Cards which have 60 really phenomenal questions to create conversations that matter as well. As our We! Engage Cards which have really lovely quotes. This is a fairly fitting one for the video and images that spark stories, ideas, etc from groups. Really phenomenal tool to engage folks. And there’s free versions of both of those, all of that stuff in the link below.
Thanks for hanging out in cyberspace with me.
Have an awesome day.