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planned spontaneity

During a recent appearance on The Jennifer Hudson Show, omnipresent Comic-Con panel moderator Chris Hardwick shared a brilliant example of planned spontaneity during a panel discussion!

Jennifer Hudson was trying to encourage Hardwick to sing something, and Hardwick paused and asked, “Can I do this in the body of a quick story?” Hudson says, “Sure!”

Hardwick was moderating a Comic-Con panel with Tom Cruise – whom he had never met. And Cruise comes out on stage and says, “Hey, Chris! We have something in common!”


Hardwick is thinking, “I don’t know what to say…how does Tom Cruise know who I am? What the heck do we have in common?”

Cruise says, “Rock of Ages!” Harwick gets what they have in common – they both played the same character – Stacee Jaxx. Hardwick in the original LA run of the production and Cruise in the movie adaptation made in 2012.

Harwick continues the story: “Then, out of nowhere, Cruise belts out ‘I wanna know where love is!’ Then he looks at me….[and I sing] ‘I want you to show me!’ And then Tom Cruise goes ‘I wanna feel what love is!’ and [Harwick responds] ‘and now you can show me!'”

[Keep in mind, the Jennifer Hudson Show crowd is screaming with excitement as Hardwick is telling this story, singing both his part and Cruise’s part!]

Hardwick explains, “I honestly, was like for a second, this isn’t real. I died on the way to Comic-Con and Tom Cruise works for heaven! So that was my crazy, amazing Tom Cruise music story.”

The thing about “planned spontaneity” is that it comes across as completely spontaneous to the audience – and to Chris Hardwick. But this didn’t happen without Tom Cruise looking to do something different, unusual…or even spontaneous! Cruise had to search for a connection with the panel moderator – someone he didn’t even know – and landed on something that rocked 7,000 people in Hall H at Comic-Con [pun intended!]. And, Hardwick is still talking about it years later. Now THAT’s memorable!

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For more information about how to moderate a lively & informative leadership 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.

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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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