When the panel discussion consists of the top executives from the organization, it may be a bit difficult to inspire tough, provocative questions from the audience.
So why not put the cards out on the table and ASK the audience
to come up with the hardest, smoking, squirmiest question they can possibly imagine?
And you’re thinking, “Huh! The executives are going to buy off on that idea?” Yes, quite possibly. Especially if a core value of the organization is “transparency” or “honesty!”
But to make it a little more palatable, you can give each executive a “get out of jail free” card – in other words, for ONE question (and one question only), they can pass the buck to another person – either a panelist or another person in the audience who is best suited to answer that particular question. (In my observed experience, some will not want to pass the buck for fear of not appearing omniscient – or will have no problem giving credit where credit is due!)
So, to set this up, ask the participants to turn to the person next to them (or at your tables) and think of the “hardest, most smoking, squirmiest question you can possibly imagine that is still professional and can be said on a recorded audio program.” Then give them 30 seconds to discuss. The noise level in the room will be off the charts!
After 30 seconds, ask, “Which group/table has a really good question?” (Note, it’s important to use group/table terminology because you don’t want one person to be responsible for making the CEO squirm….) Once you have identified the person, say, “Please stand up and ask your question. Which panelist would you like to ask the question to?”
At this point, I always like to use my throwable microphone
, the Catchbox
as it adds a new variable into the mix. How far can I throw it? Will they catch it?
Then let one or two panelists answer the question, then repeat the process for about 3-4 more questions, and then move on to another technique to engage the audience
during a panel discussion!
Big Thanks to Brian Walter
for inspiring the hot seat question format!