Originally posted on SpeakerHub.com
“I come up with dozens of questions for the panel ahead of time… I literally write 30-50 questions down in advance, knowing that I may only get to 5 of them, but when I do they will be phrased exactly how I want them, and the panel will be kept on track.”
-Tom Webster, writer, speaker, and panel moderator.
As a panel moderator, asking insightful and interesting questions is one of your biggest responsibilities.
Your questions can spark a great discussion that will leave the audience both informed and entertained. So, make sure you know what you want to ask before you get on stage.
While creating questions specifically for your panel is the very best way to make your discussion unique and engaging, sometimes it can be difficult to know where to start. (Read more below to find out how to create and crosscheck your questions.)
When creating your own questions, you need to start with going back to the purpose of your panel. Why are you here, and why should your audience care?
Each question should come back to this and constantly be pushing your panelists towards creating value and insights for your audience.
What kind of questions should you ask?
After you’ve created your list of questions, go back through and check to make sure it passes the checklist below.
5-Point checklist – Is the question:
The first question will set the tone for the panel and is crucial to sparking immediate intrigue.
Avoid over-generalities and try to make it interesting.
The first person to speak will also influence the tone of the panel, so consider who you want to start with and why.
If you start with the quietest person on the panel, will this get them talking right away and keep them engaged in the conversation?
If you start with the person with the most experience, will they be able to give a well-rounded background to the topic right away?
What about the person who originally proposed the idea for the panel? Will they be the most likely to set the tone you are looking for?
Should you ask everyone the same opening question to get their initial perspectives at the beginning?
3 Types of opening questions
– Easy warm-up
Start with a broad, simple question so the panelists can get comfortable.
Some examples include asking for a state-of-play, some background on the topic, or how they got involved.
Don’t spend too long here, though. Quickly segue into more controversial topics, or you could risk boring your audience.
Skip the niceties, and start with a bang.
Establish perspective by breaking out a provocative question.
Some examples: ask each panelist to offer a strong opinion on the topic, or to describe the greatest challenge we (or the industry) face moving forward.
Sometimes, it is not possible to find out the knowledge level of your audience before the panel, so starting with a question that will help you, and the panelists, determine this at the beginning can be very helpful.
Find out the level of their knowledge by asking for a show of hands.
For example: “How many people have been in the industry for less than a year?”, “Over a year?”, “Over 5 years?”, or “Who thinks they could probably run this panel?” (asked with light humor); or “How many people agree with [a certain perspective on the topic]?” “How many disagree?”
Now, get out there and ask some great questions!
You have a special role as a moderator to a panel. Your task is to make it as insightful, interesting, and informative as possible.
Panel moderating experts: what are some questions you always fall back on? Please share your experience, and we may include your advice in a future article. Contact us.
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