“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.
One of your primary roles as panel moderator will be to ask thought-provoking questions.
Don't make any hasty judgments.
Instead, approach the panel with the mindset that you are very curious about the subject and hope to learn more by asking questions.
(picture of a speaker)
Your questions have the potential to initiate a fascinating debate that will educate and delight the listeners. Be well-prepared with questions before taking the mic.
Some questions to get you thinking are provided below.
21 Questions You Must Ask During Your Next Panel Discussion
While brainstorming questions that are tailored to your panel is the best approach to ensure an interesting and informative debate, it can be challenging to know where to begin. (Keep reading for guidance on developing and verifying your inquiries.)
If you find yourself stumped for questions during a panel discussion, here are 21 that should get the ball rolling and keep the conversation going.
We need your help figuring out how to move [insert field here] forward.
How would you characterize the [field/topic/ industry's] evolution over the past five years? For the next five to ten years, what do you see happening?
To what do you attribute the current state of affairs in [field/topic/industry]?
What are the most important adjustments we must make to confidently meet the future?
What impact has [certain technological advancement] had on [certain discipline/subject/business]?
Who is making the most significant contributions, and what are they doing, to [insert field here]?
In 2018, what do you anticipate to be the most fascinating development?
8. To what extent do you agree that [this] result would benefit [this] audience/industry/planet the most?
Please tell us the one thing we can do to make a real impact.
You said that in your [book/article/etc.] and I totally agree with you. Why did you arrive at that conclusion? [Follow-up question directed at a different panelist] Do you see things differently?
Tell me why you choose to write about this. Tell me about your background in [industry/field] and what attracted you to working in this particular area.
How are individuals in your [field/industry] making the world a better place?
In what ways have you been successful in your endeavors, and what suggestions do you have for those who would like to follow in your footsteps?
What are some widespread misunderstandings? Exactly how can we improve our communication to counter these misunderstandings?
Is there a time when you wish [you/your organization/your industry] had taken a different approach? What would you do differently if you had the chance to start over?
More on the preceding query: To put it another way, can you think of anything you did that you wished everyone else did, and explain why?
In order to avoid ever having to hear that question again, what would you prefer to say in response to it?
If you could ask [certain panelist] one question, what would it be?
What is one piece of practical advise you would provide to someone starting out?
Where may interested parties get the most in-depth material?
Is there anything crucial that we failed to mention?
Build your own probes
Remembering the panel's original intent is a good place to start when crafting your own questions. When considering your audience's interest, why are you here?
Each inquiry should circle back to this central idea, driving the panelists even closer to providing something of value to the listeners.
How do you know what questions to ask?
What information do you think they'll find most intriguing?
Can the panelists' knowledge be effectively gleaned from this inquiry?
Does this question require a detailed response, or can you just say "yes" or "no?"
If the question has the potential to provoke discussion or argument, it should be asked.
Is there no way you could look up the solution to that question online?
This person seems like an odd choice for the panel; why did they get invited? Can they really offer anything new to the table? So, how can you make sense of that?
After you've made your list of inquiries, double-check that it satisfies the criteria laid down below.
Quick 5-Point Checklist – Could it be that:
The connection to the subject at hand is unmistakable.
Representing the thoughts, feelings, and opinions of the speakers.
Taking into account the listeners' problems, concerns, or pursuits.
Currently, this is a really significant matter to talk about.
Sure to start a debate (especially if it highlights a sensitive topic or highlights the differences in people's experiences).
But where do you even begin? Introducing Yourself Questions
The tone for the entire panel can be set by the opening question, which can also serve to immediately pique audience members' curiosity. This depends on how you want to introduce the topic and what you hope to accomplish.
Try to keep it engaging by avoiding overgeneralizations.
Think carefully about who you want to speak first and why before the panel begins.
Will the panel get going if you begin with the quietest member?
Is the most knowledgeable individual going to be able to provide a complete overview of the issue right from the bat if you put them in charge?
Where does it leave the individual who suggested holding such a panel? Will they be the ones to most reliably establish the mood you want?
Should you have everyone answer the same question first so you can compare notes?
There are three distinct varieties of introductory inquiries
Simple pre-exercise stretching: If you want the panelists to feel at ease, ask a wide, straightforward question first.
For instance, they could inquire about the current situation, demand history on the issue, or wonder how they came to be engaged.
Avoid lingering here for too long; instead, go into more contentious matters.
Fire-starter: Cut all the small talk and get right down to business.
Get people thinking by asking a thought-provoking topic.
A few illustrations: You may try asking the panelists for their firm take on the matter, or for an explanation of the biggest problem we (or the industry) faces going forward.
Audience-reader: Starting with a question that will assist you (and the panelists) evaluate the expertise level of your audience from the opening may be quite beneficial when you are unable to ascertain this information before the panel.
Ask for a show of hands to gauge their degree of understanding.
How many workers have been in the sector for less than a year, for instance? A year and a half? More than five years? Who here feels they could probably manage the panel? (as a joke) or "How widespread is [this viewpoint]?" Who here would say that?
Start thinking of some excellent questions to ask, and then go ask them!
To moderate a panel, you must understand the unique position you hold. In other words, it's up to you to make it as entertaining, instructive, and thought-provoking as possible.
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