These words are usually followed by either a forest of arms in the air, a nervous arm slowly rising or silence accompanied by eyes looking around. Here are 8 tips for making sure this important interaction between panel and delegates is not wasted.
Ensure your Q&A moderator has at least two questions up his/her sleeve. If there are no hands up within a second there’s no point in waiting, dive in saying that you’d like to kick off with your own question. Make it short and not too complex for an easy answer by your interviewee or panel. This often prompts others to ask their own question or respond to yours.
Help your presenters by ensuring the lights are turned up in the room so that eye contact can be made between them and questioners.
Ask your moderator to step out from behind the lectern, this allows body language to express openness and removes a bit of formality which sometimes prevents people contributing. Notes can be held in their hand rather than on the lectern for this session.
Make sure your panel can hear the questions from the back of the room. This may require a “foldback” loudspeaker to be employed especially if it’s a large room or ambient noise is relatively high.
Ensure the questioners hold the microphone correctly, no more than 15cm from their mouth. A short briefing before the session opens will help, such as “we have microphones which will be handed to you, please hold them about 10cm from your mouth so that everyone can hear you”.
Your microphone ushers should be briefed to hand the microphone over the right way up, not to touch the switches and to raise their hand when they hand someone the microphone. This ensures the panelists can see clearly who is speaking and the moderator can invite the person to speak.
For larger audiences or where speed is critical, particularly when the general public is involved, it would be worth considering “boom mics” which are operated by skilled technicians and the speaker doesn’t need to worry about the microphone at all.
Keep the session snappy and lively, utilise your pre-prepared question(s) if it dries up too quickly. Bring it to a close if people aren’t interacting rather than waiting for a question. If there are too many hands in the air ensure they know they can approach the panelists during the break or by email/social media.
You don’t need a television series to run a successful, engaging audience interaction session!