10 things I Learnt about hosting a Q&A session

Panel members at Q&A eventLast night I organised and chaired an event for the FSB here in north Norfolk. After a long spell of dropping numbers at events I was asked to come on board and give some fresh ‘young blood’ input into proceedings to attract people back to events.

So working on the basis of ‘give them what they want’ my suggestion was a question and answer surgery type format around the topic of marketing. A panel of industry experts would be grilled from the floor from a group of small business owners about how to best spend their marketing budgets.

Having never put such an event together it was a steep learning curve but a nice challenge. Here are 10 things that I think were really useful. Some I had taken advice on beforehand some I learnt on the night and noted for future use. Some may seem obvious but sometimes stating the obvious is a good reminder.

Pre planning and before the event.

1. Put together you panel of experts. I use the word expert very carefully however use people you know, like, trust and believe in. Make sure they are suited to your target audience. Big wig high flying pushy types who may be super successful will destroy a room full of nervous small business owners at this type event. Make sure they are fully aware of what’s expected of them and who the typical audience is. Some may like to do some prep beforehand.
2. If you’re not doing this as a team then make sure you have extra bodies to man the doors and welcome people and help you field questions from the back of the room etc. They are just as important as the panel members themselves in making the Q&A event a success.
3. Pitch the event at a level that is right for the audience you’re trying to attract. Before sending out your marketing show the event information to a few folk who would be typical delegates and ask if they would attend and if not why not. Adjust as necessary and repeat exercise.
4. Use something like www.eventbrite.com to administrate the event. This will collect delegate information, take payments and issue tickets. It saves a whole load of admin.
5. Make a to do list of things that you need to take, you don’t need much but there are things that add a touch of “I’ve made an effort” suggestions:

  • Place names for your panel members, big & clear. I used sheets of a4 card folded over. The women in the shop tried to sell me wedding place names!
  • Delegate list
  • Feedback forms – feedback is essential from your delegates
  • Bowl to collect business cards
  • Your business cards and marketing materials inc pop up banner if you have one.
  • Laptop, leads and take a long power extension lead (you should of checked out the venue beforehand but always be prepared)
  • Pens & pads for panel members
  • Do you need bios from your panel members to introduce them or will they do the introductions themselves?
  • Jot down the things you need to say for your welcome/into.

On or during the event:
5. Turn up in plenty of time. Give yourself breathing time for problems. There’s only so much you can wing before you look a fool.
6. If your panel members are giving up their time for free then the very least you can do is set up a tab at the bar for them. Make sure they are looked after. Chilled water and glasses on the panel members’ table.
7. Give a warm welcome to the delegates and lay out the ground rules from the start. Expectation management is your friend here. 2 essential rules along the same theme are:

  1. You have set amount of time to get everyone’s question in, remind people not to hog/takeover the event.
  2. Make it clear that you’re panel members can’t go into great detail and if you feel the question is going that way you may then move things on. Tell people not to be offended at this.

8. Involve everybody. If the room aren’t directly asking panel members the questions then make sure all members get questions fielded to them. You can always ask another panel member for their take on the same question if they aren’t being asked much. You have to be on the ball and inventive here.
9. Keep control of the room. Don’t be frightened to butt in to an answer that is going on and the participant keeps returning the question. The room may scorn the person but you don’t want them scorning you. Do politely remind them that there are a lot of questions to get through and they can continue the conversation afterwards with the panel member should they wish. I guarantee you you will have to do this so be prepared!
10. Close the evening by asking the audience to show their gratitude for the panel members time and remind them to complete their feedback forms.

We had a great night last night and the feedback was mostly positive and there are things to improve which is great. I really enjoyed being grilled as did the other members. We had feedback to ask to do the event again as it was so good which is really encouraging.

I’ve probably forgotten something so if you have other tips or comments then please do leave them below.

Gary

I love: Norfolk | Food | Cooking | Community | Speaking | Marketing | My Wife x | Great customer service & engagement | Running a business (or 2) | Humour

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1 Comment

  1. Excellent advice Gary – glad the evening went well – admire you for doing it – hope you have many more such successes.
    Cheers
    H

    @HuwSayer

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