Professional Panel Moderator Kristin Arnold asked Susan Morris, a fantasy author, editor and absurdly frequent panel moderator at GenCon, if there are questions she avoids asking panelists during a panel discussion at meetings, conferences, and conventions.
Kristin: Susan, are there any types of questions you tend to avoid?
Susan: There’s a couple things that I definitely stay away from, and I think they’re pretty basic. I mean, stay away from definitions, unless the whole topic is about defining a space. I will usually assume the definition or state the definition of what I’m considering the topic at the beginning, both to make sure that we kind of stay on topic, but also because I’ve seen panels go on for half an hour just on the definition of the panel, and that’s not fun for anyone.
Yeah. So the other thing is, of course, you avoid yes/no questions. Yes/no questions, they just don’t open people up. And you avoid things that are too simple questions. I mean, simple questions can work if the question itself can be simple, but the answer can never be simple. Like, you don’t want it to be like, the answer is “characters,” because then that’s what they’ll say. So you need it to be something that gives them something to grab onto.
Ideally, it’s something that plays into something they’ve talked passionately about before, because if you do that, you know they’re gonna go off on it, and then you’ll get a good discussion.
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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.
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