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50 Questions to Ask Guest Speakers During a Virtual Event

Find out what to ask and what to avoid along with other tips and tricks for a successful and engaging guest speaker virtual event.

Published on February 22, 2022 • Updated on April 26, 2022 • About 9 min. read

guest speaker answering questions in a virtual conference on livestorm

Whether hosting or just attending, a virtual event is a fantastic opportunity to engage with an expert and learn about their experience and insight. For a host, it’s also a great chance to promote your own skills as a speaker and presenter.

To get the most from your guest and event – and to place yourself in the best possible light – you need to carry out careful research and develop a body of thoughtful questions.

So what questions to ask your guest speaker for an entertaining, enlightening discussion? What topics should you avoid? And what other tips or tricks will help ensure a successful virtual event?

To find out this and more, read on.

What makes a good question to ask a guest speaker at a virtual event?

guest speaking and using hand gestures in a virtual conference while they give their presentation/talk

The better you know your guest, the better you’ll craft original, relevant questions that will give real value to your viewing audience – and we discuss more on the value of good guest research below.

But even with limited knowledge of your guest’s background or expertise, you can still get your guest talking at length with open questions that consider their struggles, skills, and hopes.

Many of our most meaningful concerns are in fact universal issues, so use your own experiences to help you formulate thoughtful questions, and wherever possible put yourself in your guest’s shoes to consider what obstacles they’ve faced – you may find that you’ve come up against similar challenges yourself.

As your discussion progresses, listen carefully and respond naturally to what they’ve said. Of course, remaining natural and spontaneous isn’t always easy when you have an audience, but with a prepared list of questions, you’ll have lots of good ideas to draw from.

Discover your guest speaker’s passions and challenges

A wealth of fantastic questions is vital to having a successful conversation with your guest speaker, but **even more important is the background preparation that will allow you to best tap into their concerns, passions, and challenges. **

So wherever possible, read what your guest has written, listen to what they’ve said, and study what they’ve accomplished. Their LinkedIn profile will be a great place to start to find links to published work and interviews – or you can simply send them a friendly email and ask them to point you in the right direction.

With a strong understanding of your guest’s professional journey, you’ll be in a good position to guide the conversation through the most interesting and relevant areas of discussion.

Before that, though, get off to a positive start with some friendly icebreakers.

12 icebreaker questions to get a guest speaker talking

Woman being interviewed slowly getting more comfortable with the audience and host, answering questions more openly

You’ll want your guest speaker relaxed and forthcoming, which is why a good icebreaker question can be so important to set the tone of your webinar presentation.

One good way to put your guest at ease is to find some common ground. This could be a light chat about where you’re from or where you’ve lived, it could be a story about your family, or it might be a shared interest or hobby.

Getting your guest talking about something lighthearted and personal can be a great springboard for further conversation, but the real value here is in getting everyone – so you, your guest speaker, and the audience – settled in and engaged.

So be expressive when showing your interest, and responsive to what your guest says – remember, no matter how many people are viewing, you are your guest's most important audience member.

Note: these questions will give you some great ideas, but you’ll want to adapt many of them for the specifics of your guest’s experience, which we discuss further below.

  1. Who are your role models?
  2. When was the last time you were surprised or shocked?
  3. Tell us something no one in our audience knows about you.
  4. What song or album did you listen to most last year?
  5. What superstitions do you have?
  6. What movie have you seen the most times?
  7. What three superpowers would you choose to have?
  8. Who would you invite to your fantasy dinner party?
  9. Who’s someone in your profession you really admire?
  10. What qualities do you most admire in others?
  11. If you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would it be?
  12. What period in time would you love to have experienced first-hand?

20 deep-dive questions to get value from your guest speaker

Guest speaker expressively discussing a them in a video call conference, using his hands and face to further illustrate his point

Once you’ve got the ball rolling with a few icebreakers or areas of common ground, you can start probing more deeply into your guest’s experience.

If you can, find a surprising or curious fact about their work or past – maybe an early success or hurdle – and see if you can home in on this to glean something substantial and unique from your conversation.

On their career and industry

  1. What are the biggest decisions you’ve made over the last year?
  2. How has your role changed in the last 12 months?
  3. How do you see the industry evolving over the next five years?
  4. What’s your secret to dealing with disappointment?
  5. What’s the most important thing for you to concentrate on in the months ahead?
  6. What are the biggest misconceptions about your work?
  7. What would you say makes you different from others in your field?
  8. What makes your job exciting?
  9. What are the biggest opportunities in the industry out there at the moment?
  10. What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the last year?

On leadership

  1. Can anyone be a leader?
  2. What does great leadership look like?
  3. What challenges do leaders face when working together?
  4. What’s the single most important quality a leader can have?
  5. What would make you a better leader?
  6. How do you resolve conflict within a team?
  7. How do you bring about change?
  8. How can you get a team to come up with unique solutions?
  9. How do you develop a strong culture within a team?
  10. What mistakes did you make then that you wouldn’t make now?

10 follow-up questions to dig deeper

The best follow-up questions help the conversation flow naturally while bringing further insight for the audience. But a great way to get even more value out of your discussion is to involve the audience – and one way you can do this is with question upvotes.

On Livestorm you can invite audience members to add their own questions to the Questions Tab and ask your guest whichever ones get the most votes.

A Room
  1. What early setbacks later gave you an advantage?
  2. How did you use your experience to influence your decision-making?
  3. What other factors made a difference to your choices?
  4. What strategies have had the biggest impact on your success?
  5. How well have you maintained a positive work-life balance throughout it all?
  6. Would you make the same decisions again?
  7. What’s the one thing you’ve learned from your experience?
  8. What could have made a difference to how things worked out?
  9. How much has luck played a part?
  10. How much do your emotions play a role in your choices?

8 fun questions to end your virtual event

A few fun questions can come in useful to break things up or to end your talk on a fun, lighthearted note. You could also use multimedia – such as a short video, gif, or image – to provoke a response or laugh.

  1. What three things would go in your room 101?
  2. Which fictional character would you most like to meet?
  3. Which app would you most miss on a desert island?
  4. Why do you love what you do?
  5. What’s the strangest question someone’s asked you in an interview?
  6. What one piece of advice would you have given yourself 10 years ago?
  7. What’s your perfect evening after a busy week?
  8. What would your motto be?

How to modify questions for your guest speaker?

Woman hosting a video conference altering questions to specifically target guest speaker's experiences and knowledge

Now you’ve got a strong body of questions to work with, you can use your interview research to really get the most out of them. Let’s look at some examples of how you can adapt questions to a specific guest.

For our example adapted questions, we’ll imagine your guest speaker is Jenny Stewart, a CEO from the world of EdTech, who’s founded and grown a website providing online lesson resources for teachers.


Original Question

Adapted Question

How do you see the industry evolving over the next five years?

Obviously, we’ve seen a huge amount of growth in online business especially over the last couple of years. You’ve already talked about how that’s affected EdTech to date, but how do you see it evolving further over the next few years?

What are the biggest misconceptions about your work?

You mentioned that as a CEO, people always seem to assume you have all the answers or that you’re an expert in every field. What other misconceptions do you think people have about what you do?

What makes your job exciting?

I think we can all tell you love your job, Jenny, so let’s get into that a bit more – what makes building a website for teachers so exciting? Where does that passion come from?

What mistakes did you make then that you wouldn’t now?

What you said Jenny about being naive seems very understandable for someone starting out. Were there any specific lessons you learned – what mistakes wouldn’t you make now, or what would you know to avoid?

What other factors made a difference to your choices?

So having a pool of expert teachers was crucial to building the resources, but what influenced your choices on which resources to create, or how to develop the platform?

Would you make the same decision again?

Even though your decision there was clearly a good one, would you make that same choice now? Has your decision-making process changed since then?

What to avoid when questioning your guest speaker for a virtual event?

There are no concrete rules on what not to do or ask during a virtual event, though it’s usually best to avoid religion and politics, and tread carefully when it comes to potentially personal or sensitive subjects.

To be sure you’re on safe ground, you could ask your guest before the event starts if there are any areas of discussion they’d rather avoid.

During the event, don’t feel you have to urgently fill any pauses with your own thoughts or further questions – give your speaker the chance to think and reflect before giving you a response.

Also, don’t forget the success of any virtual event depends on engaging your audience, so while your speaker can do a great job of that themselves, encourage audience participation wherever possible.

We’ve already mentioned using question upvotes to involve event viewers and that multimedia shares are a great way to encourage video engagement – you can also use polls to get the audience in on a discussion to see how much they agree or disagree with your guest on a subject.

Also, ask your audience to use reaction emojis throughout a real-time conversation. By being careful about sensitive subject matter, and looking for opportunities to engage your audience throughout the event, you’ll keep the webinar topics relevant and enjoyable.

Engage your guest and audience

Your goal with a guest speaker should be a relevant, engaging, and unique conversation. So the importance of careful guest research and interview preparation can’t be overstated.

Where possible, delve into their professional history and see if you have any shared experiences you could touch on – you might uncover a surprising fact or opinion that’s the starting point for your entire discussion.

Then, once your guest begins to open up and dive into their experience, be an attentive listener, unafraid to challenge them on their ideas if it’s appropriate to do so.

With thorough research, great questions, and audience participation by way of reaction emojis, polls, and question upvotes, you can be sure of a successful, engaging virtual event.

Frequently asked questions about guest speakers for virtual events

What questions should I ask a guest speaker?

Ask your guest speaker open questions about their career choices, the hurdles they overcame, and their plans for the future. You can also ask fun questions as icebreakers or to break up the conversation. Always listen carefully to your guest speaker, and ask follow-up questions that delve deeper into subjects they’ve raised.

What are good questions to ask a successful person?

Most successful people have had to work hard and negotiate struggles or failure, so ask them questions about those challenges, what key moments made a difference to their fortunes, and what advice they’d give to their younger selves.

How do I find a guest speaker for my virtual event?

Build a network of contacts through work, forums, and social media – especially LinkedIn, where many professionals are also looking to grow their contacts and find partnership marketing opportunities.

When you identify a subject you’d like to discuss, search out specialists within those networks, and consider podcast hosts, influencers, and friends of friends. The best guests are experienced speakers, so also work out your budget and schedules before making contact with a potential guest.

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