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Former Member

Recently, a client asked me the following question: "How do we best handle questions via Twitter at our next event?"  The event was a panel discussion with a large live audience. 

The answer depends greatly on the social media proficiency of the people up on stage and the resources you have available.

Set Up

For any of this to work, there has to be a dedicated event hashtag. This hashtag has to be well-communicated before, at the beginning, and during the event. Ideally, write it on a board on stage or display it on the slides. Keep reminding people of this medium to submit questions.   

Three Ways to Use Twitter for Q&A at a Live Event

1. The ideal scenario = SMSS (Socia Media Savvy Speakers)

Your panel speakers are social media savvy and know how to monitor a hashtag during an event without getting too distracted. They can answer Twitter questions on the fly and integrate them into their answers. I have seen this done well.  Most people though, seem to be intimidated by the idea of having to monitor a phone or iPad while speaking.

They might not have it all wrong: there is more and more proof that multi-tasking diminishes performance. So if you check your phone 10% of the time, you can only give 90% of your attention (at best) to the live event. (Here one way to monitor a hashtag: enter the hashtag into the #Discover area, e.g. #MCSV )  

2. A scenario that works just as well leverages a dedicated moderator

Especially if you are planning to have Q&A at the end of the session, having a dedicated person monitor the Twitter stream on the hashtag is a great solution.  The moderator adds additional value by picking out the best questions (if there are many) and to sum up questions around the same topic. Sometimes questions might be too complex to be answered right away; the moderator can make a note and have a subject matter expert respond later.

Three options:

  1. The moderator reads the questions out loud using a microphone - during Q&A, or if agreed, throughout the session.
  2. The moderator types the questions into a teleprompter or on a screen that the presenters (or even the audience) can see.
  3. The moderator sends direct Tweets with the questions to the panelists so they can appear to check the Tweet stream but only have to focus on their DM.

  • The moderator should also respond to the questions on Twitter, using the answers from the speakers. Likely, not all people asking questions via Twitter are actually at the live event or following a live stream. This demonstrates responsiveness and bridges the gap between the physical and virtual world.

   3. Twitter Screen

Set up a screen where the panelists (or even audience) can follow the live Twitter stream on the hashtag. Tools like Twitterfall can help. Twitterfall also lets you exclude words (e.g. competition, bad words). Many companies have home-made solutions for their events, so that they can delay Tweets and manually filter out inappropriate content (e.g. on race, religion...).  The font has to be be VERY BIG. And if  the Tweet stream moves fast, it won't work as there won't be enough time to focus on a question.

There is also a Twitter tool by Timo Elliot that can be embedded into a PowerPoint deck. Simply embed the tool into a PowerPoint slide and it will display a desired Tweet stream. You could show such a slide during Q&A; but Tweets could move too fast (if the conference is big and the audience active on Twitter).

Things To Keep in Mind

  • Not all questions have to be answered immediately. If there are too many questions, they are complex, or off-topic, answer them later.
  • Sometimes there are no questions via Twitter. If this is important to you, you could reach out to some of your influencers prior to the event and encourage them to Tweet a question. Some people "plant" questions on Twitter but this is fake. If you want to address a specific topic, ask the speaker(s) to address it during their allotted time, not in Q&A. Be authentic!

Good news: You just collected a ton of good content for a great blog!

Collect all the questions from the event and create a blog answering them in depth. Or write a blog that features the most interesting Tweets from the whole event, using a tool like Storify

If you enjoyed this blog, subscribe to more social media tips & insights.

How do you use Twitter for Q&A? Any tips welcome.

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