5 Ways to Handle Negative or Irrelevant Employee Questions During Q&As

Martina Cicakova

“Great questions make great town halls,” Chris Kelly, Convene’s Co-Founder, told us recently. But what do you do when questions during the Q&A session are not so great?

To start a conversation with their employees, many companies use Slido to crowdsource questions from the team. It’s priceless to know what’s on people’s mind.

But as human nature goes, the power to speak up might tempt people to post questions that hint a sense of frustration or hostility.

Or they might post irrelevant questions, forgetting that the purpose of your Q&A with the CEO is not to decide what flavor syrup the coffee machine should offer.

To help you handle such situations, here are 5 Slido tips that will reduce the number of negative or irrelevant questions during your company Q&A.

1. Set clear guidelines and expectations

Prevention is better than cure. Setting clear, simple guidelines can drastically improve the quality of questions.

Make sure to clarify your expectations and rules for submitting questions. “You can’t put the tool out there and expect everyone to use it the way you want,” shared our customer, Archontissa Klapaki, Marketing Manager at Upstream.

“We accompanied Slido with the right messages and guidelines at every step of the process. As a result, we now get the quality of questions that we want,” continued Archontissa.

As a starting point, make it clear you’ll only accept questions that align with your company values. You can ask people to do a simple check: “Would you say this to someone’s face or post with your name attached? If not, rephrase it.”

Here are more example guidelines, inspired by Upstream:

  • We will only address the top 5 questions; please upvote the most relevant ones
  • If we have already answered a question, we won’t address it again
  • We only accept constructive business questions; comments won’t be approved
  • We won’t accept questions that include rude or profane language

Extra tip: To remind people of the guidelines, include them every time you share the link to Slido, along with a clear message; e.g. “Please make sure the content and tone of your questions are respectful and in line with our company values.”

2. Use moderation to preview questions

Even when you set the guidelines, you might still want to keep some control over the incoming questions. To do that, you can turn on moderation in Slido.

Having moderation on means that every question will have to be approved first; only then will it be displayed for everyone. This short video explains how it works:

If you decide to moderate questions, transparent communication is ever more important. Make sure to explain why you use moderation and what rules people should follow so that nobody feels censored.

Even before you start collecting, every participant should know what makes a question unacceptable and why such questions won’t be approved.

Let your employees know that this is to ensure that none of the displayed questions are offensive, violate your company values or disrespect your workplace policies.

3. Ask people to rephrase their questions

Sometimes a question can be valuable but it is poorly phrased or unconstructive. You don’t have to dismiss it off the bat.

With moderation on, all questions land in the Admin for your approval. So, if you spot a poorly phrased one, simply reply back. You can respond to the sender by commenting on his or her question by using Admin replies.

The participant who asked the question will automatically see your comment posted as ‘Moderator’ below their question on their mobile device and can act on your message.

Admin reply with a comment on the participant's question which is waiting for review.

Usually, reading the moderator’s comments encourages the participants to use more appropriate wording and resubmit the questions.

Depending on the reason why you want the question rephrased, here are some example replies you can use:

  • Question not in line with the guidelines
    “Thank you for your question. To keep the conversation constructive and in line with our Q&A guidelines, please rephrase it as a new question.”
  • Poorly-phrased question
    “Thank you for your question. All questions should use appropriate and civil language in line with our values. Please rephrase it as a new question to keep the tone constructive.”
  • Comment instead of a question
    “Thank you for your comment. Please note that we only accept constructive questions. Please rephrase your comment as a new question.”

4. Explain the ‘why’ behind unapproved questions

Still, there might be situations when you need to dismiss some questions completely to keep the Q&A relevant for both the leadership and the team.

For example, you might get the same question three times, receive questions not relevant to that particular Q&A forum or on topics that were already covered.

In any case, try to always communicate the reason why you rejected the question. It will help you mitigate the feeling of censorship among the team and make people feel heard.

Here again, you can use Admin replies to communicate back to the audience.

To make it easier for you, we prepared a few templates which you can copy and paste:

  • Irrelevant question
    “Thank you for your question. Please note that this topic will be addressed in detail during the next Customer Success Townhall on Monday, 9.00am. Feel free to join the session.”
  • Duplicate questions
    “Thank you for your question. A similar one has already been submitted and is in the queue. Please feel free to upvote it.”
  • Already answered question
    “Thank you for your question. This has already been answered, so your question will not be approved.”
  • Question about a local issue during global meetings
    “This is a global company meeting so the questions should be applicable to the whole team to keep the discussion relevant. As your question only applies to the UK office, please raise this point with your local office manager.”

5. Let people downvote questions

Finally, you can pass even more accountability on the team to select the right questions.

As you know, participants can upvote questions in Slido by default. But you can also turn on downvotes on questions. The more downvotes a question receives, the lower the score and the position of a question.

For example, you might receive a question: “Will we get a new flavor syrup for our coffee machine?”

While 10 people might be eager to know the answer and give it 10 upvotes, there might be other 15 people who understand it’s not a relevant question for a discussion with the CEO and give it 15 downvotes. This way, the question simply won’t make it to the top.

Some of our clients do this and rely on their employees’ sound judgment on which questions are useful and which ones are negative, irrelevant or low priority.

You can use downvotes along with the moderation, or you can fully rely on your team and use downvotes without any further filtering of questions.

Again, clear communication is paramount for getting it right. Make sure to explain the rationale behind using downvotes to avoid discouraging people from posting questions. For example, ask your employees to only downvote questions that are inappropriate, irrelevant or not in line with your company values.

Doing so will help you build trust and make people feel safe to speak up. It will also encourage people to ask questions more constructively.

Wrap up

Getting the Q&A session right can truly boost your all-hands meeting. Using these tips, tried and tested by both our customers and us at Slido, will help you handle insensitive or irrelevant questions during Q&As, build trust and create a constructive dialogue with your employees.

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