As with face-to-face meetings, online meetings are more successful when they involve the participants. One of the best and easiest ways for doing thi, is by allowing for a Q&A portion, where participants can ask questions about what has been presented and discussed in your online meeting. A good Q&A session will not only demonstrate your knowledge of the topic, but will also be a good opportunity for getting to know your colleagues better, since online meetings often bring a dispersed workforce together.
Online Q&A sessions are unique because they have he potential for removing inhibitions that can be present during face-to-face meetings. Normally shy colleagues, for example, might feel more comfortable voicing their opinions and asking questions during online meetings. While it is great that meetings over the Internet foster greater participation, it also means that questions asked during an online meeting can be more direct or even more difficult to answer. Because of that, as a meeting presenter, you will have to make sure that you have prepared yourself carefully for your online meeting’s Q&A session.
1. Include the Q&A session in your meeting agenda - Also make sure to announce that you have dedicated a part of the meeting to answering any questions your participants could have. By doing so, your participants will know that they will be able to write their questions down throughout the meeting and have them answered before its end. This will also help avoid any disruptions caused by questions being asked in the middle of the meeting, which can disrupt its flow.
2. Know your audience - Think about the people who will be participating in your meeting. Are they mainly peers? Clients? Higher-level executives? Keep in mind that each group has its own concerns, and by knowing what they are, you will be able to correctly predict their questions. A great way to do this is to think about what each person will be looking to get from the meeting. Gear your online meeting presentation towards your audience, and know which key slides you might have to revisit during the Q&A session. As you will likely be sharing your screen through your online meeting software's screen sharing facility, it will look much better if you can immediately go to the necessary slide without 'rewinding' through the whole presentation.
3. Rehearse your answers to possible questions - Think of the Q&A session as part of your presentation, and rehearse it as such. Make a list of questions that your participants could have and rehearse your answers. Prepare yourself a 'cheat sheet' with key facts and figures that you can reference when answering a question. Also keep in mind that the best answers are short and informative, so get straight to the point. By doing this, you will sound knowledgeable and prepared for even the toughest questions.
4. If you don’t know an answer, say so - Every once in a while, you will get a question that you will not be able to answer. When that happens, it’s better to be honest with your participants and say that you don’t know the answer, than to make one up. Promise that you will look the answer up after the meeting, and you will be back in touch once you have it. After the meeting, promptly search for the answer and send it to your meeting participants along with the meeting's follow-up materials.
5. Don’t let the Q&A session drag the meeting on - As the presenter, it’s your job to make sure that you’ve allotted enough time for the Q&A session. However, it’s understandable that some subjects will lead to many questions and more discussion. If you get so many questions that you can’t answer them all in one meeting, offer to schedule a second meeting to continue the discussion at a later date. If that’s not possible, you could create a workspace in an online collaboration tool so all the questions raised in the meeting can be followed-up on.
6. Deal with difficult meeting participants - Some participants could have a reason to ask you particularly difficult questions that don’t quite add to the meeting. Perhaps they’re trying to show off their own knowledge of the subject or they disagree with your presentation and want to prove you wrong. If you find yourself with one of these participants, offer to take the discussion offline. Keep in mind that successful online meetings are constructive and start and finish on time, respecting the fact that your attendees have busy workdays. It also helps to learn how to deal with difficult people at work.
By keeping the above points in mind, you will be ready to finish your online meeting with a pleasant and useful Q&A session, where you will learn more about your participants, and they will get a chance to actively participate in the meeting. A good Q&A session will reinforce a sense of collaboration and teamwork, making your online meeting a success from start to finish.