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Question-and-answer sessions of days past involved an entire rigmarole: Asking for hands from the audience, passing out microphones to large audiences and disjointed silences to fill the resulting downtime. They depended primarily on people being bold enough to verbalize their questions to a room full of people. Sometimes these questions were long-winded and hard to follow for the moderator and audience alike. Inevitably, many valid questions and comments fell through the cracks because either so many people would raise their hands to speak or people would simply sit on their comments rather than share them with the group.

Long story short: The idea of Q&A sessions sometimes elicits eye rolls from those who have sat through enough ineffective ones to know they can be a drain on time. However, the latest wave of audience response technology is smoothing out the process—meaning organizations can integrate these sessions in a meaningful, efficient way.

Here are five creative ways organizations of today can use questions-and-answer sessions to truly optimize communication.

Maximizing Presentation Value

One of the most classic use cases for Q&As is topping off a presentation by allowing the audience to ask the speaker follow-up inquiries. These sessions can understandably make the speaker sweat. Why? Because there are many unpredictable variables. One public speaking expert outlines for Inc. exactly all the ways in which these presentations can go awry:

  • Someone asks a “bad” question.
  • Someone asks a question the speaker can’t answer.
  • Someone asks a “never-ending” question with multiple parts.

So, what’s the solution? Using audience response technology to run an interactive question-and-answer session alleviates many of these issues, maximizing presentation value. Participants can submit questions via their mobile devices, which will then appear onscreen. Audience members can also upvote others’ contributions, helping the most relevant inquiries rise to the top in real time. Since everyone has the opportunity to contribute, there’s no waiting to have “the floor” to speak.

Breaking Down the Hierarchy of Power

Good ideas come from all levels of an organization. An intern with fresh eyes might have a breakthrough suggestion—but without a way to connect with leadership, this idea may never come to fruition.

Truly inclusive Q&A sessions make room for everyone to contribute, often during an all-hands meeting or other collaborative group event. This means everyone from entry-level employees to managers, executives, remote workers and more. Crowdsourcing feedback from every level of your business helps forge an organizational culture that prizes honesty, insightfulness and transparency. This helps break down the traditional hierarchy of power in which decisions come from the top down.

Structuring Meetings for Maximum Productivity

The last thing you want is for meetings to eat up time, money and employee patience. Launching a brief Q&A session at the beginning of each meeting will allow you to customize your agenda based on what people want to discuss.

Brainstorming Anonymously

Allowing respondents to submit questions and ideas anonymously puts more focus on the submissions than the submitter. As HubSpot writes, “People might have some ideas that they’re reticent to bring up in front of the group. It’d be a shame to miss out on those ideas due to shyness, discomfort, or simply a preference for writing out ideas instead of speaking about them.”

 “Training” for an Upcoming Pitch or Speech

Let’s say you’re delivering an upcoming pitch to a potential client or speech on behalf of your organization. Sure, you can try to anticipate all the questions you’ll receive ahead of time—but chances are you’ll miss some. Instead, give a run-through of your presentation to a trusted group of colleagues and host a mock Q&A session afterward as “practice.” This will allow you to rehearse both the content of your answers and your readiness to answer questions authoritatively on the fly.

Question-and-answer sessions are versatile, as these five creative ways organizations can implement them demonstrate. Think outside the box and get collaborative.

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