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Due to COVID-19, the plenary meeting of our ICT department (30 people) will be on Skype.

How do we effectively organise the question and answer part?

  • What is the best online equivalent of raising your hand?
  • How to avoid people interrupt each other (voluntarily or not)?
  • If you ask people to submit their questions in writing, should you still involve them in the discussion?
  • etc.
  • What inherent limitations and challenges are you trying to overcome exactly? Are we supposed to guess what you're trying to achieve? – joeqwerty Mar 27 at 11:34
  • Thans, Likienthal, for stating the question in a more general way. – Dirk Horsten Mar 27 at 12:03
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    Out of skype, much conferencing software has an option to virtually "raise a hand", but that only applies if you can change the medium. – Tymoteusz Paul Mar 27 at 12:14
  • Quite welcome @DirkHorsten, thanks for updating the question with some specifics. – Lilienthal Mar 27 at 12:53
  • Use the Skype chat panel to funnel questions to a moderator. – Jon Custer Mar 31 at 18:33
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Keep it simple and get the questions on a side channel, for instance email,slack or SMS, when it is time for a question read out loud for everyone to hear it and answer it.

This way there will be no wasted time switching presenter, having problems to unmute the microphone or having a voice which no one can hear.

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    Yes, good answer. The conferencing tech usually has some kind of chat channel.Ask for questions to be typed into chat. Select somebody to read the questions and ask for answers. – O. Jones Mar 27 at 11:25
  • Keep it simple use something everyone is already using - if you are on mail/slack/sms use it. This is even more important when the group is larger. The important is not to ask everyone to try to cut in as this is very disruptive. – Simson Mar 27 at 11:58
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Since it's on Skype, use the instant messaging channel on the conference for questions. Somebody can then pick and choose which to ask.

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  • This is what we've been doing, on Google Hangouts. Whoever's leading the meeting will keep an eye on the chat for questions and address them as appropriate. They also usually pause near the end to ask "Any questions?" and then give it a solid minute for anyone to unmute and begin speaking. It's been working pretty well for us, anyway. – Steve-O Mar 27 at 18:23
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Doing a Q&A without preparation can be very inefficient. A Skype call with 30 people is VERY expensive.

A good way to get this done is:

  1. share a document with the proposal or topic of discussion to all 30 people, beforehand

  2. give all 30 people a time limit to read the document and send questions to you

  3. use the call for your answers. Control the time allowed by prioritising the questions you received, and make it clear that some extended discussions will be taken offline.

  4. If people come up with new questions, go for a second iteration.

This will help the whole team participate in a scalable way, giving you control of how time is spent in the "big call", while making that time useful for your team.

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    Good answer, but not an option for this meeting: the chair man does not have the authority to request the presenters to share their ideas upfront. – Dirk Horsten Mar 29 at 12:33
  • Maybe this is something that could be negotiated: if you are playing a game where everybody loses, you might as well try to change the rules. – Monoandale Mar 29 at 14:13
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Lots of video conferencing apps actually have a "raise your hand" function. Someone clicks on "raise my hand" in their window, and the presenter sees it and can stop or not, as they choose.

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    Zoom, which is experiencing a huge boost in popularity, is one that has this feature. (I am not affiliated with Zoom, but we use it at work.) – shoover Mar 27 at 15:09
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I have had good luck with having people ask questions on https://cardboardit.com/ or another similar product. It seems to get the best result if the person moderating the questions is "off camera".

Since we have a distributed team we would introduce the questions the way they did on the show Frasier. This was useful when we needed to "prime the pump" with questions because we would have planted questions we could use if we did not have any from the group, or we wanted to reiterate an important point. "John from the 6th floor break room asks; Can you clarify the new break room clean your own mess policy?"

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