Last week, I wrote about good panel questions and a reader emailed me to ask, “If that’s what’s GOOD, what are the BEST panel questions to ask?”
Now, that’s also a good question to ask!
The best panel questions make the audience lean in to listen. Sure, they should have the six attributes of a great panel question, yet the best panel questions probe beyond the known and spark a deeper discussion, providing new insights and perspectives the audience hasn’t heard before.
Inspired by your research of the topic, panelists, or audience, as you curate your list of questions, or from the actual panel discussion, the best panel questions originate from curiosity. The panel moderator specifically looks for the “white space” – the ground that has not been covered before.
Dr. Diane Hamilton, nationally syndicated radio host and expert interviewer says, “I want to know more about why they did that and what they’re trying to do and what led to that decision or, whatever it is. Some of it is really my own curiosity. You just start researching and you wonder if that is the case. Some of the best questions are just gut instincts of what you want to ask just based on your own personality. And I think some people are more inquisitive. I’m very inquisitive and like that little kid that always said ‘why, why, why?’ What would I want the audience to learn from this person and what do I want to know? And sometimes it’s funny, I’ve had some really successful people tell me, ‘You’re the only one that’s ever asked me that! I’ve had a million interviews and nobody has asked me that!’ And I love it when they say that because you’ve gone somewhere that’s just not so boring. You’ve hit something that’s unusual and they like that.”
Pam Fox Rollin, executive coach and strategist, extends that curiosity to the panelists as well. She says, “I love having curious panelists because the reason why people get invited to speak on panels is they are the experts. Right? And yet, if you come with this mode of ‘I’m the expert,; you bring canned responses and typical sound bites. So I ask them to be curious about the topic, about the other presenters, what are they going to discover, and what could make this panel juicy for them. And it’s usually something they haven’t thought about. As I invite them to the conversation, they wonder what this industry maverick is going to say. Who knows what’s going to come out of their mouth? So I find an entry point to curiosity for them and probe deeper. And I just find it makes a huge difference in what happens.”
Go from a good question to a GREAT question with curiosity!
For more information about how to create the great questions for a lively & informative panel discussion, check out our free 7-part video series on how to moderate a panel and other resources to help you organize, moderate, or be a panel member.