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I was chatting with Dutch Driver, a colleague from the early days of facilitation (we actually used a listserv to communicate!), about the power of asking a thought-provoking question during a panel discussion.  It’s really the Socratic Method at it’s best!

Evidently, he has been curating a list of questions and is willing to share them with you.  You may find some you can use during your next panel discussion (or conversation) – and please add your best questions in the comments below!

Questions of Clarification

  • What do you mean by XXX?
  • What is your main point?
  • How does XXX relate to AAA?
  • How can you phrase that differently?
  • What do you think is the main issue here?
  • Is your basic point XXX or AAA?
  • What is an example of this?
  • Would this be an example: XXX?
  • How might you explain this further?
  • What makes you say that?
  • Let me see if I understand; do you mean XXX or AAA?
  • How might this relate to our discussion/problem/issue/question?
  • What do you think John meant by his remark? Or What did you take John to mean?
  • Jane, would you summarize in your own words what John has said? John, is that what you meant?

Questions that Probe Purpose

  • What is the purpose of XXX?
  • What was your purpose when you said XXX?
  • How do the purposes of these two people vary?
  • How do the purpose of these two groups vary?
  • What is the purpose of the main character in this story?
  • Was this purpose justifiable?
  • Was the purpose addressing the question at this time?

Questions that Probe Assumptions

  • What are you assuming here?
  • What is John assuming?
  • What assumptions could we use instead?
  • You seem to be assuming XXX. Do I understand you correctly?
  • All of your reasoning depends on the idea that XXX. Why have you based your reasoning on XXX rather than AAA?
  • You seem to be assuming XXX. How do you justify taking this for granted?
  • Is this always the case? What are the exceptions? How do you justify that these assumptions hold here?

Keep these questions in your “back pocket” – just in case you need them at your next panel discussion!

To learn more steps to successfully moderate a panel discussion like a pro, try this user-friendly guide.

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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.

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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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