You may not use this panel discussion format very often, but when you want the audience to walk a mile in another person’s shoes, try the “Ask a Fill-In-The-Blank” format.

As reported by the Star Tribune:

It was after the July 2016 shooting of Philando Castile by a St. Anthony police officer, and Roseville resident Nyia Harris wanted her community to hear the perspective of black men — regarding policing, bias, everyday life.

So she went to Do Good Roseville and pitched “Ask a Black Man,” a February panel discussion and question-and-answer session that ended with a standing ovation by its audience of 100 people.

“I wanted black male voices to be out there,” said Harris, a mother of two and a part-time teaching assistant at her children’s school. “But I was going to be one and done.”

Ahhh…not so fast, Mrs. Harris! Your idea has taken fire!

The enthusiastic response by the public that night, and a continued hunger for honest conversation has instead fueled continuing conversations that show no signs of abating.

Ask a Black Man led to Ask a Black Man-Part 2 — which included three white men on the panel. That led to Ask a Muslim Woman, Ask a Community Youth and Ask a Veteran. In 2018, planned panels include Ask A Dreamer, Ask A Muslim Woman-Part 2, Ask An Adoptive Parent and Ask a LGBTQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual).

So how does this work? The moderator solicits questions from the audience – typically using 3×5 note cards, but you can also use crowdsourcing technology (especially if people desire anonymity). The moderator explains the process, sets some ground rules, and starts the Q&A session. Harris says “All I ask is that the people be civil and respectful. They have been, thanks in part to the presence of community access television.”

When you have a minority group, topic, or idea that needs to be heard, recognized and understood by the majority, you might want to try the “Ask a Fill-In-The-Blank” panel discussion format.

Related Articles:

How Panel Moderators Can Ace the Art of Follow-up Questions

How to Create GREAT Questions for Your Panelists to Answer during Your Panel Discussion

“Turn the Tables” in a Debate-Style Panel Discussion Format

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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