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Everyone likes a good story….especially when it’s a train wreck!  So how do you get your panelists to spill the goods?

According to Brian Walter, Founder of Extreme Meetings, he uses a particular process when soliciting an awesome story during a panel discussion:

  1. Frame up a problem that the majority of the audience members are experiencing.  This could be a recurring problem, challenge or fear.
  2. Reframe that problem into a question that requires a story for the panelist to answer:
  • “Tell us about a time when you….”
  • “Give us an example when you….”
  • “When did you find yourself in a position where you had to…”

3.  Look at the facial reactions of the panelists.  Are they smiling or nodding?  Are they looking away?  Are they looking directly at you…and not in a good way?  It’s your judgment on who to ask.  🙂

4.  After the panelist spills, you can decide if this is a “one and done” question and move on to the next segment of the panel.

OR you could keep going.  It could be that the answer was awesome and requires a follow-up question – a question that you know the audience is dying to ask.

OR you can emphasize the lesson learned from this experience

OR you could ask the same story-question to another willing panelist.

OR you could ask a different awesome story-question.

By asking an awesome story-question, you are subconsciously humanizing your panelists for the audience.  After all, they are sitting on the stage because of their awesomeness – but not everything is sunshine and rainbows!  By asking a question that requires a story, you put them in a position of being vulnerable, charming, or self-deprecating. The audience will lean in and remember that story and the point even after the panel discussion!

Related Articles

How Moderators Can Manage Awkward Audience Comments

Creating Great Questions for Your Panel Discussion

Panel Discussion Tip #185 with Jeffrey Hayzlett: Finishing Panel Discussions

For more information about how to moderate a lively & informative panel discussion, check out our free 7-part video series or our other resources to help you organize, moderate, or be a panel member.

Kristin Arnold



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Kristin ArnoldKristin Arnold
KRISTIN ARNOLD, MBA, CSP, CPF|Master has been facilitating meaningful conversations between executives and managers to make better decisions and achieve extraordinary results for 25+ years. She's a leading authority on moderating panel discussions and passionate about finding the perfect olive to complement a vodka martini.
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