The Order of Questions to Ask in a Panel Discussion
Typically, moderator-curated questions for the panel have a flow that moves from strategic to more tactical:
Strategic. Start with broad or ”high altitude” questions designed to define the topic and discuss what is happening in the field/topic/industry. (I’ll shorthand this to “topic”.) Be careful, as your first question sets the tone for the remainder of the panel!
Benefits. Clarify/detail the benefits and/or consequences about why the audience should care about the topic.
Application. Ensure the audience walks away with substantial value, takeaways, as well as the ability and confidence to apply the information.
Examples of Questions to Ask in a Panel Discussion
How do you define [the topic]? What exactly do you mean when you say “[the name of the topic]”?
Why is [this topic] so important right now to this audience?
What is the biggest challenge facing us about [this topic] today?
What are the future trends of [the topic]?
What are the key success factors for those who are achieving success [in the topic]? How do you know you are making progress?
What is the biggest or most common misperception about [the topic]?
What can you expect from [the topic]?
What’s the business case for pursuing [the topic]?
How does [the topic] impact an [individual, group of people, or specific set of stakeholders?]
Why would an [individual/group/stakeholders] need [the topic]?
How does this benefit the user/organization/community?
What are the long-term consequences if we ignore [this topic]?
What do you do to make sure you/your organization is successfully achieving [the topic]?
From your experience, what are some examples of [the topic] in practice?
Describe for us your typical day and how you deal with [the topic]?
What are the skills and talents required to achieve [the topic’s] desired results?
What are the potholes we need to avoid when implementing [the topic]?
What’s the one thing you have learned in this process that you didn’t know/couldn’t find the answer to on the internet?
Where should [individuals, businesses, organizations] start with [the topic]?
Do you have a specific book, magazine, podcast, tool, or technique you recommend to the audience to continue their learning?
What advice or tips do you have for succeeding in [this topic]?
How do you counteract or respond to the “naysayers” who say [the topic] can’t be done?
What do we [individual/group/industry] need to do to inspire more people to embrace [the topic]?
If there was only ONE thing you hope the people in the audience today do as a result of our conversation, what would it be?
As the panel moderator, you can fine-tune these example questions to suit the goal of the panel, the expertise of the panelists, and the expectations of the audience. And stay tuned for more examples for the more popular topical panels such as alumni panels, career panels, digital transformation panels, diversity & inclusion panels, fashion panels, female leadership panels, leadership panels, LGTBQ panels, nursing education panels, and women’s panels.
For more information about how to develop. sequence, and ask questions in a 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.
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.