Participant-Centered Approach to Curate Panel Discussion Questions

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Bob Pike, Chairman and Founder of the Training and Performance Forum, shared this panel discussion format of “capturing the question” using small groups during a panel discussion.

“I was told that participants in the Asia Pacific area would not ask questions and that asking questions would put them on the spot because potentially they could lose face. This has never been a problem for me in over twenty years because I have always used a participant-centered approach to presenting. I believe that the purpose of a question is for learning to take place, not testing to take place.

My participants are almost always placed in groups of five to seven, generally around round tables with the front (the part of the table closest to the visuals) left open. Periodically, I’ll ask the group to come up with one to two questions they’d like to ask the panelists. I then give the tables a few minutes to discuss and generate possible questions. Then I’ll say that we have twelve minutes for Q&A and ask which table would like to ask the first question.

There is always a flood of hands. I’ll take the first one I see, have the panel answer the question, and then ask that table to choose the next table to ask a question. At the end of twelve minutes, I’ll invite them to post any other burning questions on a chart that I title ‘Capture the Question.’ I provide Post-it notes on each table for this purpose.

When asking questions, I will pose the question and then say, ‘Your group has one minute to discuss the question and come up with an answer.’ If it is something the panel has not covered yet, I will say, ‘Your group has one minute to come up with your best guess.'”

Virtual Variations:  Use the breakout room function to randomly or deliberately place participants into smaller groups to discuss the questions.

Bob Pike contributed this powerful panel tip to my latest book, 123 Ways to Add Pizazz to a Panel Discussion published in January 2021. Read more at

Related Articles:

How to Moderate a Virtual Panel Discussion

How to Create GREAT Questions for Your Panelists to Answer during Your Panel Discussion

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

KRISTIN ARNOLD, MBA, CSP, CPF | Master, professional panel moderator and high stakes meeting facilitator is on a quest to make all panel discussions lively and informative. Check out her free 7-part video series on how to moderate a panel and other resources to help you organize, moderate, or be a panel member.

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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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