Event Tech Talks are a series of events by Event Industry News, which invite leaders in the industry to discuss a range of topics relating to technology in the events industry. Last month, Callum Gill joined the panel to delve into what the impact might be on the events industry when it comes to the Internet of Things. Kirk D’Cruze debated over websites and apps, and, prior to this, Matt Hayward looked at AR and VR on a budget. As Creative Director, I joined the panel for “Beyond Q&A, how we can engage attendees further?”
The event invited some industry leaders to discuss how we are currently engaging with attendees at events and consider ways to gain further insight and event promotion. Hosted at 1 Wimpole Street in London, I was joined by Rob Curtis, Head of Sales at Crystal Interactive Meetings, Peter Eyre, CMO of Meetoo, alongside Adam Parry, Founder of Event Tech Talks and Event Industry News (media outlet for the events industry), who moderated the panel. Here’s a brief overview and top-line points of the discussion.
Digital vs. Humanisation
Over time, the ways in which we do Q&A sessions in events have changed. At one time there used to be handheld mics, passed to the audience. Now, we have the capacity to use social media, upload questions online, or use an app. Microphones might be the way forward, as digital can sometimes take over, and that humanisation of asking questions is really important. It’s all about having a conversation with the audience, and using the right tools to suit them. So, it does depend on the type of audience you have – is it external or internal – is it the Q&A, the main event, or part of a bigger event?
Are Devices a Distraction?
People are now expecting to use their devices in Q&A sessions and we are living in a world where the majority of us use our mobile phones every day. So, it sometimes is better to incorporate it into an event, but there are positives and negatives. Some people may feel uncomfortable or annoyed at having to use their own device at an event – “I want to use it for what I want to use it for, not what you have asked me to use it for.” Similarly, if, for the majority of an event, they aren’t allowed to use their phones and have been asked to switch them off, but then you allow them to use an app, they are naturally going to go on their phone for other things (to text, go on social media etc), whilst going on the app you have asked them to go on. On the other hand, you can’t stop people using their devices, so take what would be a distraction and use it to your advantage – by fully incorporating it into the event, including in the Q&A section.
However, there could be an event where people do not have a device accessible to them, or perhaps using a device is not appropriate for that event, audience, or that environment. Always bear this in mind and have back-up ways to do your Q&A just in case. Chris mentioned that he sees the same type of responses with a handheld mic as he does with an app. Overall, if you have a really active audience, you have to distinguish the best tool for that audience.
Does it start before the event, happen during, and then continue afterwards? Before an event, having an app is a great way to set the tone, get the content ready, make it accessible through the meeting, and tell them what is in it for them. It can shape the meeting as it goes and encourage that all-important participation.
However, having a Q&A platform outside of the live event is something you have to think carefully about. Asking questions before can cause the audience to think that you have then come up with pre-set answers that you launch at the event, which can make them wonder: are they genuine and too well thought-out, rather than instant Q&A and instant answers on the day?
Often though, if you do have a great Q&A session, it is hard to get through all the questions, so extending online or afterwards is better. But the answers still have to be written in the right way. For example, if you don’t continue to answer certain types of questions, it can look like you have only answered the questions that you care about rather than the ones that the audience care about. You have to make sure that you cover everything, but if you’re struggling, look on the day at the ones that have been upvoted – because you know that these ones are the ones that matter to your audience the most.
Online + Offline?
On social media, there might be attendees who have joined the event online – listening and watching – therefore being able to answer the Q&A and join the conversation. So, if you can bring the conversation online, then do, but you have to accept that you could be talking to more people than are sat in the room in front of you. Some of the panel suggested that, for certain events, it is better to use the Q&A for the event and then move on – this doesn’t always need to be online as well. Either way, it does always have to be moderated – because you never know what people might post online, or what kind of people will participate in the conversation.
It’s a Culture Thing
For me, Q&A is about having a cultural openness with your people – a two-way conversation that can and should be continued. So, don’t stop at the event: continue the discussion with your people and get to understand their answers fully. Rather than “oh we did an event and answered some questions”, remember the answers to those questions will be used in the future of the people and their business and they matter.
By this, the audience who are sat there will be thinking to themselves that, if they don’t contribute to the Q&A, they feel like they’re missing out, so they contribute. It’s all about ensuring people feel like they matter, to encourage that engagement and involvement at the event, and beyond the event within their teams and within the business.
What kind of data can we get out of a good Q&A system from an event? Who is asking the questions, what questions are they asking? This is really important information. Even more useful would be to know what part of the business they are from, so what are they looking to find out, what’s their age, job role, etc – then we know how to engage and include these people effectively.
Polling can get you some fantastic insights, but sometimes you have to instill the confidence in the delegates to use it – so that they can see the value. For instance, polls can create a profile of every single person – to see how they were before vs. how they are when they leave the event.
Be prepared! Do your research on the content and where the Q&A is happening. Sometimes, the difference between a successful and unsuccessful Q&A event can depend on outside factors – such as Wi-Fi, the speaker on stage, the room you’re in and the technology you are using.
See the panel in full here:
Richard Hingley – Group Creative Director