One of the key advantages of modern webinars, whether they be remote, hybrid or filmed in a studio, is the ability to create a two-way conversation between your speakers and your audience.
While sometimes getting people to provide input and ask questions can be easy, at other times it can be a challenge to generate enough discussion to cover the times you’ve set aside for questions and answers.
The amount of interaction you generate will be based on your planning, the strength of your topic, the skills of your moderator, your webinar platform features, and the knowledge and confidence of your audience.
There is more than one way to take questions, and it’s worth considering your options depending on the type of event you’re holding, whether it’s live or pre-recorded, filmed in a studio, part of a hybrid face-to-face and remotely attended event, and so on. For example, if you plan to pre-record your entire webinar, your moderator won’t be able to take live questions. But that doesn’t mean you can’t respond to your audience at all.
All types of digital events
There are ways to incorporate questions into almost every type of digital event.
- Pre-submitted questions
Whether you’re filming your webinar in a studio, hosting a hybrid event or going fully remote, a good place to start is to ask people to submit a question during the registration or confirmation process when participants register to attend.
Keep it short by asking a single open question that will elicit a range of responses from people, and/or provide one open field in which people can type their own questions.
For events such as a virtual AGM where the ability to ask questions is a key part of meeting requirements, you may have to allow for a fuller response.
You don’t have to limit your research to attendees. Send out a call for questions to your executive team, sales team, partners or other stakeholders and ask them what questions they get asked by clients and others.
Having prepared questions means you can have prepared answers, and it can also help you adjust your agenda to include topic areas that might be popular.
Prepared questions and answers are also useful for when you’re covering sensitive information — it’s always good to have an answer prepared for that curly question you know you’re going to get.
It also works well for speakers who lack the confidence to host an open Q&A or answer questions on the spot. It’s a good idea to provide any questions to your speakers well ahead of time so they can prepare responses in advance and you can discuss their answers if required.
Hybrid, studio and remote events
The most common method of handling questions in webinars is the live Q&A over chat, which works for all live events.
- Public or Private Chat
Typically, this involves your moderator or facilitator calling for questions from the audience in a live event.
Your attendees have the option of jotting down and sending their questions via a private or public chat box in your webinar platform. The moderator will see the questions, read them back to the audience at large, and then ask one of your presenters to respond to them live.
You can also take questions in chat rooms. Typically, this involves your moderator or facilitator calling for questions from the audience, and your attendees typing their questions in a chat room forum. This is great when your event includes multiple audiences that may have different interests.
The big benefit of a live Q&A is the interactivity, spontaneity and engagement it can inject into live webinars. Your audience will get a lot more out of the discussion when you canvass more points of view, and they’ll also enjoy the opportunity to put your speakers on the spot and gauge their reaction.
If transparency is a priority, consider allowing attendees to pose questions and comments via public chat on your webinar platform. Your moderator can still choose which questions to read out and put to a particular speaker verbally, but all your attendees can see both the questions and the responses from other attendees.
While public chat features have the added benefit of letting you draw on the expertise of your audience, it’s important to have a moderator to keep everyone on topic.
In a private chat, the moderator will see the questions, and choose which ones to read back to the audience, and then ask one of your presenters to respond to them live.
Taking questions in a private chat better enables the moderator to select the questions that are not only the most interesting to the most people, but are also most relevant to your topic areas and objectives which will allow you to maintain control over the subject matter, flow and narrative of your event.
- Live Polls
Every live webinar should include at least one live poll. Prepare the question or questions in advance, offer multiple choice answers, and make it interesting, engaging or even controversial.
Live voting lets you get a much more accurate read on a response to a question than a show of hands or tallying ayes and nays.
On top of that, polls also boost engagement because you can immediately share the results with your audience to motivate discussion and increase interaction.
Another option is to hold one at the beginning of your webinar, and use the result to motivate them to stay by presenting the response later in the event.
It’s trickier to incorporate polls into the face-to-face version of hybrid events, but it can be achieved by providing people with a log-in to your online event on mute, and asking them to vote via their mobile device at a particular time.
- Live-streaming and social channels
The questions you’re taking in your webinar don’t have to be limited to your invited guests. If you’re live streaming your event on a social platform, another way to take questions is through the social comments you receive during your webinar.
Simulcasting your event on a platform such as Facebook lets you reach a whole new audience so a greater number of voices can be heard and more points of view can be considered.
Tips for Hybrid Webinars
If you’re running a hybrid event, which includes audience members in a studio as well as watching remotely, your moderator should consider encouraging remote viewers to participate by giving them specific questions, so they are involved in the event as much as the live audience.
To get the ball rolling, start with your live audience where it can be easier to provoke an impromptu discussion. Your moderator should already have an idea about where some questions might come from or how to stimulate conversation just by reading the room.
Make sure anyone who asks a question clearly states their name and where they’re from before they ask their question so your remote audience is aware of who’s talking. Remember your remote audience might be viewing on a laptop with built-in speakers or a mobile device, so to avoid any confusion or bad audio, it can also be a good idea for the moderator to repeat the question for everyone.
When it’s their turn to ask a question, your moderator should address your remote audience specifically to encourage participation. It’s usually a good idea for the moderator to repeat the question because not everyone will be wearing headphones — including your live audience.
- Include a dial-in option
It’s also a good idea to choose a video conferencing provider that will allow participants to dial into a hybrid or remote webinar, especially for events where the ability for everyone to participate is crucial. Make sure you keep them on mute, during the main part of the webinar, and then unmute them when it is their turn to ask a question verbally. This format works well for virtual AGMs and investor events.
Tips for Studio Webinars
There are some additional, engaging options for taking questions in a studio webinar.
- Video Questions
One advantage of filming your webinar in a studio and broadcasting it to remote participants is that you can play TV-style video questions, which is a great way to create a super-engaging Q&A.
During your registration process, include your attendees to record a question on their laptop or phone and send in the file, and all you have to do is select a few to play during the live Q&A section of your webinar.
Someone who is interested enough to take the time to record a question and send it in, usually has a good question to ask, so it can be a great way to stimulate discussion.
Video questions are a very popular format with webinar viewers because both speakers and attendees get to see the person asking the question, which creates a greater connection and increases engagement.
Don’t forget to brief your presenters so they can prepare ahead of time.
Tips for Remote Webinars
A big benefit of remote webinars is the extended reach your event can have. We’ve seen some events attract four times as many attendees as live events. And being remote can make some attendees feel more comfortable asking questions.
- Respond to questions in virtual breakout rooms
Some webinars require breakout rooms to be set up at the end of the live component of the event, to enable groups of people with similar questions to interact.
The best way to do this is to include a link in your webinar resources or public chat to any breakout rooms you’ve set up so that the conversation can continue in that environment.
For example, your audience might split into groups in different chats within a virtual chat platform to have their questions answered by subject matter experts.
This allows in-depth questions that are only relevant to part of the overall audience to be answered live. For events at which many attendees have similar questions, it also helps when they can see the questions posted by others, as well as the responses.
Ask a few yourself
No matter which type of webinar you’re holding, the final thing you should do when it comes to Q&As is to ask a few questions yourself.
Whether you hold a quick online poll at the conclusion of your webinar or send a post-event survey and request more detail, it’s always worth asking your attendees what they thought.
The feedback from your participants, as well as your speakers and colleagues, can be invaluable when it comes to improving your event format, speakers, topic areas and even how you allowed people to ask questions.