Professional Panel Moderator Kristin Arnold asks Warren Evans, professional speaker, futurist and member of the Canadian Speaker Hall of Fame to share his perspective on how to avoid a dull response from a panelist during a panel discussion at meetings, conferences, and conventions.
Kristin: Warren, is there anything you can do to avoid a dull response from the panelists?
Warren: Sometimes I think it’s appropriate to do a bit of refrain to make somebody’s comments more pointed than they otherwise were. I would say, “Thanks Bob. If I understand you correctly, what you’re basically saying is XYZ, have I got that right?” And sometimes, depending on how long-winded he is, I will leave off the “Have I got that right?” and I will go directly to somebody else and say, “Kristin, is that what you heard Bob just say?”
One of the things I will do in the 20 minutes that I have with the panel after we’ve had some chat and so on, or I will do in a line of email. Let’s all make an effort together to not invest this audience’s time in violently agreeing with each other at great lengths. I will say to them, “We’ve all sat in that audience, the very worst thing you can hear from a panel is ‘I think Kristin’s absolutely correct.’” There is nothing really I can add, and I will then spend seven minutes proving just how true that was. I will explicitly tell them that up front, and that takes a ton of time.
The other thing you can do from a control point of view is if you’re controlling where the conversation’s going next and doing it in such a fashion that people can jump in if they want. It’s a casual kind of conversation. You avoid the situation where everybody on the panel answers every question. You can rotate. “Does anybody else have something else to add value to that conversation?” That subject’s done, cool, as opposed to “What do you think?” and everybody just repeating the same thing over and over again; that’s what makes the panels dull.
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