How much time should you leave for questions?

In a recent webinar, Shelly H. asked, “How much time should you leave for Q&A session at the end of a webinar?”

Shelly, I love the question for one big reason: You’re thinking about interacting with your audience!

I think it depends on the nature of the presentation and presenter.

As you saw in my webinars, I prefer to talk with people during the webinar. I’m entirely committed to ending on time, but it means I often don’t have a lot of time at the end for Q&A. For me, I both pause briefly in the middle of the presentation, and as you saw, I take questions on the fly during the webinar.

To be fair, many presenters aren’t comfortable in the virtual environment, and they’re not comfortable dialoguing with the audience throughout.

In general, if you’re going to have Q&A at the end, I’d err on the side of more time (and have less presentation) for several reasons.

  • Answering questions is a time for personal application. Sometimes the answer to a specific person’s question is as valuable (or more) to them than the rest of the presentation.
  • Questions can clarify something confusing in the presentation. As presenters, we like to think we nail it every time, but sometimes we don’t. Time to “clean up” is useful.
  • Questions are intimate. When you talk at the audience, you could just as well be a recording or broadcast. When you interact with them, you’re being social. Powerful!
  • Questions often bring out mini case-studies. If the presenter has an example s/he can share, it illuminates the topic in a new and sometimes refreshing way.

So, how much time do you want to leave for questions?

Take a guess at how many people you will have attend, then take a guess at how many will submit questions (your webinar solution’s reporting tool may give you stats on how many people asked questions). Finally, estimate how many of those questions you might want to get to and plan enough time to do so.

A final thought: A webinar doesn’t have to be one-size-fits-all. Get creative!

Did you notice that I stuck around after the webinar “ended” to answer more questions? Those went on for another half hour. So we devised a new, upcoming webinar series that is “upside down.” We’re going to have 20 minute webinars with 40 minutes of Q&A.

Depending on what you’re doing, you might host a “panel discussion” that is based on audience questions. Or an “ask the expert” session. Or a facilitated “town hall” discussion.

One thing is for sure…when you are real and personal and interactive with your audience, the connection is more powerful and the experience is more valuable.

Good luck!

2 thoughts on “How much time should you leave for questions?

  1. Harley King

    I personally don’t like Q & A sessions whether it is a classroom session or on a webinar. Although, I find people more willing to ask questions on a webinar than at a classroom session. When I do Q & A sessions, I do come prepared with questions of my own that I can ask in case no one asks a question. As a participant, I find the Q & A boring because the questions are usually boring. I much prefer the session to be interactive throughout. So when I do webinars, I engage the audience as we go instead of waiting until the end.

    1. TheVP

      Harley, I couldn’t agree more.

      I also have some plant questions if needed…sometimes the “herd effect” needs to be prompted. People don’t start responding until they hear others (and I know all the FAQs in my space, so it’s easy to articulate something akin to what I know somebody in the audience is thinking).

      This also brings up the difference between managing text-based questions and live audio questions.

      With textual questions the presenter/facilitator can and should use questions that have the broadest applicability to the audience (more relevant for all). Too often there are “corner-case” questions that put most everyone to sleep.

      Managing those live, however, is like playing radio talk show host. You need to be able to get through it and move on.

      But, like you, I much prefer interactivity throughout (well, it’s not just a preference, it’s what I do).

      Thanks for sharing!

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