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Ready to shift gears?  Shake it up?  Change the tempo of the traditional, ho-hum boring panel discussion? About two-thirds of the way into your panel discussion, get the audience to lean in with the lightning round!

So what, exactly IS the “lightning round?’  It is a QUICK poll of the panel.  You can either ask a quick question to all the panelists, or a quick question to each panelist, but one right after the other.  Boom, boom, boom!

The key to making this technique work is in the preparation:  ALL of the questions need to thoughtful and intentional.  Be concise in their phrasing so that it forces the panelist to answer with one word, phrase or sentence at the most.  Best to have them on index cards so you can rifle right through them!

So let’s share an actual example of how it works:

Moderator: So let’s shift gears with a lightning round!  I’m going ask each of you a question, and answer as quickly as you can with one word, phrase or at most, a sentence.  Got it?  Great!  Let’s start with David: How often should a speaker update their video?

DAVID: Once every five years.

Moderator: Sylvie, how often should a speaker update their website homepage?

SYLVIE: Constantly because there is always something coming up.

Moderator: Alright. Tammy, how often should a speaker update their entire website?

TAMMY: Entire website? I have no idea. Too expensive.

Moderator: Excellent. Connie, same question, how often should a speaker update their entire website?

CONNIE: I kind of agree with Sylvie. I do it kind of… I mean, it’s a constant thing, so, it’s just an ongoing, never stopping process.

Moderator: Alright, Tammy, how often should a speaker update their headshot?

TAMMY: Every year, every two years.

Moderator: What if you’re a bald guy and your appearance won’t change for like twelve years?

TAMMY: It’s a judgment call but I still think you change it.

Moderator: Ok, what if it’s a year later and you changed your hairstyle?  Which is not something I’ve ever done.

TAMMY: Most definitely. You should look like, or look better than your headshot when you walk in the room.

Notice, the moderator asked follow up questions to suss out more insights OR asked the same question to the next panelist. So, if you don’t think you got enough from the answer, you can challenge it – just keep the lightning round, fast-pace up.

Moderator: How often should a speaker update their demo video? Tammy, go.

TAMMY: Once a year.

When you are close to the finish, announce that you are asking the final question…and you can even make it a funny one!

Moderator: Alright. David, how often should a speaker shave their head?

DAVID: Always.

And that’s how you interject a lightning round into your panel discussion to keep it lively and informative!


Related Articles:

27 Popular Panel Discussion Formats to Spark Your Creativity

Panel Discussion Technique: Question Behind the Question

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

Panel Discussion Tip #143 with Terry Brock: Visual Do’s & Don’ts for Virtual Panels

Kristin Arnold, professional panel moderator, and high-stakes meeting facilitator, shares her best practices for interactive, interesting, and engaging panel presentations. For more resources like this, or to have Kristin moderate your next panel visit the Powerful Panels official website.


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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