Professional panel moderator, Kristin Arnold asks Neen James, an expert on leveraging your focus and paying attention to what matters most at work and in life, on how to answer difficult questions (that you just don’t understand!) as a panelist during a panel discussion during a meeting, conference, or convention.

Video Transcript

Kristin: Neen, as a panelist, how do you answer difficult questions that you just don’t understand?

Neen: Okay, I’ve had that happen to me several times. So, here’s what I’ll do. I always have a pen in my hand, and often some sort of piece of paper. So I’ll say…so, as people are asking me, sometimes I’m writing things down. And so what I’ll do is if it’s a really crazy question, I will either do a couple things. Sometimes I’ll say, “Do I understand your question to be…?” And then I’ll think about my notes, and I’ll read it back to them. If they say yes, then I’ll proceed with the answer. 

If they say no, that’s totally it, that’s like nothing like I asked, I will say to them, sometimes very cheekily, I’ll say, “You know, my goddaughter’s name is Maddy. And Maddy is 11. And if you were asking Maddy that question, what would you ask her?” So, put it in the frame of my goddaughter so that people can simplify their question. And so, instead of saying, “Speak to me like I’m a three-year-old,” which sometimes I wish people would do, but you know, for respect to my smarty pants clients, you know, sometimes their questions are like, so they use such big words, I don’t understand what they mean.

And then another thing that I’ve done sometimes is I would say, “If you were asking me that in a different way, how would you word that?” And so, I give them the opportunity to reword it. And if I really don’t understand it, I will say, “I’m sorry, I’m not understanding your question, can you ask me in a different way? Is there a different way to frame that for me?” Or I might say, “Can you give me an example of what you’re looking for?” 


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Kristin Arnold, professional panel moderator, and high stakes meeting facilitator is on a crusade to make all panel discussions informative, interactive, and interesting.   Specifically, she wants to help YOU become a better panel moderator.  Why?  Because 95% of annual meetings have panel discussions – and according to the 2014 Panel Report, it’s a fifty-fifty proposition they are any good at all!  Expectations decrease dramatically when your attendees walk in and see the traditional draped head-table with microphones on short stands.  There are sooooo many other ways to have a stimulating conversation!  So let’s increase the probability of success for your next panel discussion with these resources.

And, you can always go back to the playlist for more Powerful Panel Discussion Tips!


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