Virtual Q&A’s are a powerful and efficient way to create a more personal experience for your audience. A virtual Q&A is an interactive gathering that takes place on the internet, and isn’t restricted to a single location, so attendees can join and participate from anywhere in the world! 🌎  The host will typically provide an area to submit questions, which can take the form of a survey, online forum, or a commenting thread. This usually takes place before the event starts, allowing readers time to input their questions about topics the host typically covers and everything in between! Whether you’re doing a Q&A write up, video or live video, this type of virtual event allows you, or your guests, to reach your audience in a more personal and direct way. Having this particular approach to your content will also let your audience to put a face to your brand. Q&A’s provide an opportunity for digital publishers to educate their audience, foster healthy debate, and share knowledge.

Making yourself available to your followers in this type of setting is a great way to humanize your relationship with them and create a more personal connection. You also have the flexibility to make this a one-person show, especially if you run your own site, or bring in team members or an expert to help contribute. Opening yourself up to audience inquiries is an excellent way to demonstrate your expertise and establish credibility on the topics at hand, as well as build rapport with your participants. Moreover, Q&A’s can give you direction when crafting future content while also showing your audience that you hear and care about their feedback.

One of the best parts about hosting a virtual Q&A is how accessible it is. First, you’ll need to open a digital space for your participants to input their questions beforehand. For instance, when using Disqus, you can post an article announcing that you are now taking questions for the Q&A and direct your audience to write their questions in the comment section below. It is best to set the sort order to “Sort by Newest,” so that you can answer the questions in the order that they come in. If you choose to do a video Q&A, you’ll need a camera, or device that has a camera, and an internet connection. I recommend using YouTube or YouTube Live (if you decide to make this a live event) as it is extremely user-friendly and even allows you to embed a live video directly into your website. There are a few other video hosting options out there, including Periscope or Facebook, so it’s really up to the user's preference. Either way, I always recommend embedding the video on your site rather than letting it live exclusively on a third party platform.

A successful Q&A requires a bit more than answering every single question thrown your way. Next, I’ll cover how this type of virtual event may work for you and provide some tips to get you started. 👍

Step 1: Planning

Once you land on a time and day, specify the length of the event and decide how you will be collecting questions. Will you be opening a forum shortly before the event starts, sending out a survey, or fielding live questions through a chat? I recommend opening up a forum about a day before the event is scheduled to begin. This allows your audience ample time to prepare and submit their questions and even gives you the chance to review some of them beforehand.

Hosting a virtual Q&A isn’t always black and white, which means you have plenty of options when it comes to exactly how you want to go about it. While some publishers prefer to avoid video and do a write up of their submissions, others are attracted to the idea of being in front of a camera and establishing a more “face-to-face” connection with their audience.

Step 2: Promotion

Market your event with excitement! Promote early, often, and increase the intensity as you lead up to the virtual event. Open up discussions surrounding the event in your content and encourage conversation through social media. You can spread awareness of the event in your newsletter, post a live countdown or banner on your website, or integrate a lightbox with a clear call to action to help increase attendance. Getting attendees excited before the event will assist in creating a lively and interactive experience, and can even pave the way for discussions after the fact. If you don’t market the event with enough time beforehand, it could result in low-quality questions from your audience -- so be sure to give them time to prepare so that you may make the most out of this session!

Step 3: Execution

Make sure the instructions and guidelines have been set, and stick to the plan. Make sure you aren’t rushing through each answer so that you can provide meaningful value to your audience. If you start with a certain energy or speed, try to maintain that throughout the entire session. Switching your strategy midway through the session could throw off the momentum and lose the attention of some of your audience members.

*Pro Tip: A big reason why Q&A’s are so useful is that you have the chance to show your audience that you value their input. Try to go beyond just answering what they ask. Encourage them by thanking them for their question and showcasing to the audience the thoughtfulness and insight behind their inquiry. Showing that you appreciate their input will not only encourage them to participate again during other Q&A segments, but it will also inspire others to get in on the discussion!

Step 4: Follow Up

Make sure to record and save every question asked, as each inquiry grants you invaluable insight on information that interests your audience. Additionally, keeping those questions allows you to refer back to them, helping you to strengthen your delivery the next time someone asks it. Continue to promote the event afterward by sharing it to social or including it in your newsletter if you have one. If members of your audience weren’t able to participate, this is a great way to show them that you value your readers’ input, and will encourage them to participate in the next one!

Below are a couple of great examples of successful Q&A’s:  

Becoming A Blogger is a site that helps individuals start or grow their blogs. Leslie Samuel, the site owner, recently conducted a live Q&A with his audience where he covered questions ranging from his favorite ways to collect email signups to tips on how to host your own live Q&A. He welcomes participants as they join, and does a great job at fielding live questions. I also like this example because his post included a write up of each question and answer in addition to answering them in the video, making this into a wholesome blog post as well. Moreover, even if you missed the live event, he published the video on his site so that others could watch on demand. He used the Facebook Live feature and then embedded it into his website.

If the live route isn't for you, it’s also a common strategy to collect questions, record your answers, and then publish the video shortly afterward. In 2016 Disqus partnered with SpoilerTV to do this exact thing. We agreed to have a Q&A about our platform and services and offered up a panel of our team members to help answer questions. We wanted to collect feedback on how the commenting experience could be improved and better understand the individuals that use our platform every day. We set a 2-hour time frame, and SpoilerTV opened up a thread 1 hour before the event so that users could input their questions. We welcomed all questions and were excited to educate the SpoilerTv audience! After the session was complete, SpoilerTV featured our comment thanking the audience for their participation. It’s also a best practice (if you have time) to review other questions in the comments that you didn't get to and try to answer those last inquiries off camera!

*Pro Tip: A well-designed website has become a sign of trustworthiness and credibility, which is essential for running an effective and consistent website, brand, or business. Because of this, we wanted to share this guide by on the web hosting industry and its’ providers, so that anyone interested in developing their online brand finds a service that fits their needs. Within the guide, they tested 36 web hosting providers and compared their performance, user experience, services provided, and of course their pricing model. This is definitely worth checking out! 

Have you ever hosted a Q&A with your audience before? 🎙 If so, what sort of feedback did you receive from your audience?