How to overcome deathly and boring Q&A during panel discussions at meetings, conferences, and conventions?  Professional Panel Moderator Kristin Arnold asked this question of Brian Walter, Founder of Extreme Meetings and member of the US Speaker Hall of Fame.  He’s a freakin’ brilliant meetings maestro who amps up the energy, engages audiences as a way of life.

 

Video Transcript

Kristin: So what are some of the things that you do to avoid death by panel?

Brian:   Let’s start with the audience. Often times, when we say a panel, what we’re really talking about is a group Q and A. We’re saying here is a panel of experts and we’re letting audience members ask. Now, if it’s just a case of you being the facilitator of this panel saying “Well, we’re going to take questions from the audience. Who’s got a question?” you have delivered over all your power to the randomness of an audience member.  Because maybe they’ll ask a great question but maybe they won’t, and maybe you’ll get the seventeen part question: “Yes, I have a question, Kristin. Isn’t it true that blah, blah, blah?” And the panelist is like: “I’m sorry, could you repeat the question? I have no idea,” and the audience members are like, “Ugh, why did he get chosen? This is horrible.” So, it can be very dangerous just to have one variable and that variable is audience questions.

Now you can get around that by having multiple variables with the exact same thing. Here’s how you do that: you solicit questions three different ways:

In advance of the meeting you send out an email or a Survey Monkey or MailChimp or whatever technology you want to use and you get questions ahead of time, that are submitted ahead of time. And then you go through and you pick out the good ones. So, you come in with questions.

Also you put 3X5 or 5X7 cards at their tables, and ahead of time you let people fill out questions that they anticipate wanting to have, and you do live questions. What happens now is that you have got three different ways to pull from, so you can start with, “Okay, now we’re going to go to the audience question part of the panel here. We have one question that was submitted ahead of time. So Bob Schmidlapp here,” and boom, you ask this great question that makes the audience go, “Ooh, that’s a good question.” And then Bob on your panel does a great job. Then you say, “Okay, another question was written on the cards,” and again, everyone knows that’s live and real because they filled out the cards, another great question. You now have momentum going and the audience suddenly has

And you do live questions. What happens now is that you have got three different ways to pull from, so you can start with, “Okay, now we’re going to go to the audience question part of the panel here. We have one question that was submitted ahead of time. So Bob Schmidlapp here,” and boom, you ask this great question that makes the audience go, “Ooh, that’s a good question.” And then Bob on your panel does a great job. Then you say, “Okay, another question was written on the cards,” and again, everyone knows that’s live and real because they filled out the cards, another great question. You now have momentum going and the audience suddenly has belief that this is going to be a good panel.

Then you go to, “Let’s go to live. Who has a live question?” and usually they’re going to piggyback off of the positive momentum that you’ve already created. So, right there, Kristin, if you just prep the audience differently, if you just prep the questions that will be asked from the audience perspective, instead of one variable you have three variables, and you have dramatically increased the likelihood that you will get some good questions.

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Kristin Arnold, professional panel moderator, and high stakes meeting facilitator is on a crusade to make all panel discussions informative, interactive, and interesting.   Specifically, she wants to help YOU become a better panel moderator.  Why?  Because 95% of annual meetings have panel discussions – and according to the 2014 Panel Report, it’s a fifty-fifty proposition they are any good at all!  Expectations decrease dramatically when your attendees walk in and see the traditional draped head-table with microphones on short stands.  There are sooooo many other ways to have a stimulating conversation!  So let’s increase the probability of success for your next panel discussion with these resources.

And, you can always go back to the playlist for more Powerful Panel Discussion Tips!