Professional Panel Moderator Kristin Arnold asks Brian Walter, Founder of Extreme Meetings and member of the US Speaker Hall of Fame to share his ideas on how a moderator can craft questions to elicit a variety of responses from the panelists during panel discussions at meetings, conferences, and conventions.

Video Transcript

Kristin: Brian, how can we craft our questions to the panel members to create a variety of responses?

Brian: Now, traditionally we think, “I ask a question and you provide a long-winded, insightful answer.” I mean, that’s the traditional model here. But what we can do is we create a variety.

For example, one I like is the ‘yes, no, maybe’ technique. So, you go to—this is where you’re going to poll everyone on the panel. You’ve have four or five people and you say, “Okay, now we’re going to go for ‘Is this going to be a good year from the blah, blah, blah, perspective?’ Okay, your answers are ‘yes, no, maybe.” Kristin – “yes,” Brian -“no,” Chuck- “no,” Ed- “no, and Javier, “maybe.” And people smile and laugh because it’s interesting, so it’s a polling style technique.

Now, there is a very similar way where you would say, “Okay, describe next year from the blah, blah, blah, perspective.” You have one word. Kristin, what’s your word. Your word is—it could be “evolutionary.” It’s not revolutionary. The other one says “scary.” The other one says “no problem.” You say, “that’s two words.” Always gets a laugh. Someone on the panel always gets two words and allows you as the facilitator to say, “you realize that was two words,” and it always gets a big laugh.

So what you’ve done is instead of having everything be a long-winded answer, you craft different ways for them to respond. Another way to do this was to have them answer it on a scale of one to five or scale of one to ten. They are not just spoken opinions which is a commentary or analysis but also get a rating, a ranking of their opinion on a particular topic. And when you mix it up, suddenly it becomes more interesting for the audience members.


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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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