How Moderators Can Manage Awkward Audience Comments

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Birth.Movies.Death editor Scott Wampler kicked off a hilarious thread where he begs the question:

“Literally everyone in this stupid business has an A+ ‘crazy guy at the junket/Q&A’ horror story and I want to hear everybody’s right fucking now.”

While there are several specific instances of celebrities and audience members gone bad, the “worst of all crimes,” according to Kaila Hale-Stern, is “standing up and saying, ‘This is really more of a comment than a question.’ This should result in a guillotine being slowly lowered down from the ceiling, or at least some slime You Can’t Do That On Television-style.”

Check these tweets out:

  • Mine’s more of a comment than a question but…. – Matthew Hall
  • At a Q&A for a paranormal and right before our time was up a guy stood up, no question, and simply told the story of how when he was young he lived on a plantation where the ghosts of slaves would fold his clothes. The room gets real awkward, and then he says…“Oh and my Aunt was decapitated and had her heart got eaten.” There is a silent moment and then the hosts simply ends the panel, people get up to leave – no one acknowledging the guy’s statement and I’m just looking around and at my friend – what the hell just happened?! – Jesse Cox
  • A girl definitely tried to sell herself as a hip-hop dancer to Seth Rogen at the Preacher panel at SXSW a few years ago and tried to convince him to come watch her dance while he was there. No commentary on Preacher. Just sold herself. – AlishaGrauso
  • I was at the INDEPENDENCE DAY RESURGENCE junket and the woman before me at the interview demanded that Liam Hemsworth say that she looked pretty in her yellow dress. And I had to go in after that. He looked exhausted. – Alan Cerny
  • “Not so much of a question as this is just… I came up here because I wanted to say ___ means so much to me and I’m a really big fan, so thank you for all the work you did on it and-” – David the Wavid

So what’s a moderator to do when an audience member moves to make a comment rather than ask a question?

First, prevent it from happening in the first place! As you move into Q&A, share the ground rules with the audience:

My favorites are: Please start with a question.  THEN share one or two sentences that provide background or clarify your question.  Please, do not change the order or start with a comment – or I will firmly interrupt you and ask for your question.

Then, if a questioner starts with anything BUT a question, immediately interrupt and ask, “So what’s your question?” And if the questioner still doesn’t start with a question,  move on to the next questioner.  Your audience and panelists will thank you.  (The one questioner probably won’t….unless he/she has a tad bit of self-awareness!)

BTW, you’ll have to decide if you are willing to tolerate the “Thank you for being here….I’m such a big fan” platitudes that most fans gush over first.  🙂

In this way, you won’t have to get the guillotine out during your panel discussion!

 

Related Articles:

Moderators, Are You Over-preparing Your Panelists?

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

Panel Discussion Tip #161 with Mark Sanborn: What To Do With a Hyper Panelist

For more resources on moderating panel discussions, visit the Knowledge Vault. To have Kristin moderate your next panel, visit the Powerful Panels official website.

Kristin Arnold
Kristin Arnold
Award-winning author Kristin Arnold is an expert panel moderator and professional meeting facilitator.
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