Meeting speakers often fear the loss of control by opening the session to impromptu questions from the audience. Normally, a mix of prepared questions is peppered with impromptu (on-the-fly) questions and cross-tabulations that present themselves during the course of the session.

The presenter’s choices are that impromptu questions may be presented verbally and freely from the floor, or presented on index cards, or both. They bubble up to the surface and are grasped and presented as they appear, or may be dealt with at a block of time at the end of the session. That is a decision that needs to be made in advance and relates directly to your culture and willingness to be interactive.

Questions from the floor are handled by the speaker and may or may not, become a part of the session at the speaker’s discretion. Control always remains with the speaker/moderator. You decide which questions pertain to the work at hand, and you may tactfully delay other queries to be dealt with after the session.

Here’s how:

  1. Open the session by beginning with a “laundry list” of the topics you will be discussing.

    Ask the audience to express their interest (by choosing just one, or prioritizing them in order: 1-2-3). This will create a ranking of the audience’s LEVEL OF INTEREST. It eliminates guessing about what is important to the attendees. It’s a great time saver and aid to both the presenter and the audience. If a question is asked that is outside of the parameters of the discussion, go back to the list.

    If need be, show the laundry list again and explain that you are keeping to the topics of interest. Perhaps offer to respond to the new topic after the session.

  2. There are two ways to be slightly less interactive:

    Have the attendees suggest topics or questions in advance via email, onsite kiosks, etc. At a pharmaceutical manufacturing plant, the client placed old-fashioned English phone booths around their facility and recorded anonymous questions. Management selected some questions and played the audio while presenting the question via audience response system on screen.

    Another methodology to be slightly less interactive than having an “open mike” Q&A session from the floor,hand out 5”x7” index cards. If they are being written and submitted during the session, assign people to collect them. A great collection technique is to have a few people roam the floor with question marks (?) on tennis paddles. Have someone organize, select and present relevant questions from a second podium.

With over 30 years of experience in helping clients achieve their meetings goals. I am passionate about the power of insight. If I can help your firm discover this power, please contact me.

Alan Warshaw
Quick Tally® Interactive Systems, Inc.
Direct Dial: 310.306.4930

About Me

After graduating from New York University with a degree in Communications, Alan attended the New School for Social Research, Graduate School at N.Y.U. and the Master’s Program in Cinema at U.C.L.A. Following his service in the U.S. Army, Alan was employed by Doyle, Dane and Burnbach Advertising Agency. He worked in the U.S. and Europe in the feature motion picture production business. He was employed by Quick Tally Interactive Systems for one year prior to acquiring the company. He has owned and run the company for almost three decades and has pioneered in the manufacturing of ARS equipment and providing interactive event services. In addition to US State and Federal Government Agencies, America’s leading companies, associations and television networks, he has also worked for events clients in the EU, New Zealand, Hong Kong Thailand and Dubai.