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  Online Presentation Q&A?
In an online presentation how do we handle the question and answer session?

Thank you for your question. As you may already be aware, an online presentation is different from a casual online chat, as the presentation must be carefully choreographed so that the guest speaker is able to present their content, while allowing your participants to ask questions in an organized manner.

This means providing a venue that allows the guest speaker to present and answer questions from the audience one at a time, while enabling idle chit-chat to be filtered out. We recommend a moderated chat environment or live event auditorium. In a moderated chat environment you can prevent chat from appearing on the screen at all times and can present only the content which you require the audience to see. This has several important benefits:

1. The guest speaker is not bombarded with questions in a haphazard fashion which might disrupt the flow of the topic.

2. They have space and scope to pace their answers, knowing they are not going to see another question arrive when they are in mid-sentence.

3. Their answer is not lost within a melee of other conversations.

4. Offensive, disruptive or otherwise irrelevant content is not visible to the speaker.

Also, a moderated environment provides your audience with an atmosphere which is most conducive to their need to be able to read the conversation clearly and be able to contribute to it. Notably, there are the following advantages for your audience:

1. Since there is no "white noise" in the room, they know that their question and its answer is not going to be lost in a mix of "banter".

2. In a moderated environment they also know that their question has gone directly to a moderator and has not simply scrolled off-screen to be ignored.

3. Participants gain more from their questions because the guest speaker is able to answer them more completely and clearly.

4. Often a controlled chat event can feel more personal, more intimate, and special in comparison to a regular uncontrolled chat room.

Where possible, a question and answer session is therefore best achieved under the moderated circumstances as outlined above. In fact, it is very difficult to perform any kind of coherent question and answer session under unmoderated circumstances.

We would also like to provide some additional tips to ensure that your online presentation runs smoothly for you, your audience and guest speaker.

1) Moderators should be sure to follow the presentation closely - both the submission of questions and the giving of answers. By focusing, they will be able to better manage the flow of questions, introduce related questions where appropriate, and enable both speaker and audience to feel that there is some natural progression in the topics being discussed. In short, being a moderator does not simply mean assessing that a question is suitable and then pushing it to the screen. If a moderator is truly "hosting" an event, they will have half an eye on the shape of the conversation, guiding it, introducing questions appropriately and assisting the speaker with their answers - even prompting them where necessary. The other half an eye is often on the clock to ensure that the speaker is giving both themselves and the audience the best possible hope of answering as many questions as they can in the time allotted.

2) Often a moderator will have to use some fancy footwork to handle situations where questions have not been answered. Where possible, if there is a likelihood that some questions will not be answered then it is advisable to have an alternative means of posing them. For example, any questions not answered during an event could be posted afterward to a web site page - with answers, of course!

It is also important that the moderator communicate to the audience that the guest speaker will try their best to answer all questions submitted during the time allotted. Communicating this to the audience will let the audience know that their participation is important and appreciated.

3) Sometimes a moderator may even have to assess whether a full answer has been giving to a question, doing so either by asking the speaker to expand on a point if they feel that is merited or by returning to the question-setter to ask if they were happy with the response. Diplomacy and delicacy are the order of the day there, so as not to upset the speaker.

Other tips in brief: - Moderators should also ensure that participants are thanked for their questions, both before and after they have been submitted.

- They should also thank the speaker for their responses.

- Where possible transcripts posted after an event offer extra value and allow those who weren't able to participate to view the event.

We hope that this helps and wish you the best of luck with your presentation!

- Jon Nix and Pam Thomas
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