Powerful Panel Discussion Tip #226 with Susan Morris: Questions that Spark Discussion

What type of questions have you found work really well to spark interesting conversations during a panel discussion at meetings, conferences, and conventions? Professional Panel Moderator Kristin Arnold asked this question of Susan Morris, a fantasy author, editor and absurdly frequent panel moderator at GenCon.

Video Transcript

Kristin: Susan, what type of questions have you found work really well to spark discussion?

Susan: I think humor actually usually works really well for me. Not like telling jokes, but saying something in a humorous way that makes people think about it differently. And the reason that works is that it lightens people up to actually think and talk well, and it gets everyone in that space to actually explore, rather than feeling like they have to be so careful about what they say. 

Yeah, for instance, I did a panel this past GenCon on breaking characters down, which is about the horrible things you do to characters in order to make them grow. And, of course, it doesn’t say the grow part in the panel, it just says “The horrible things you do to characters.” And so, the first question I had was something like, “So, why hurt your characters? Don’t you want them to be happy?” And the whole point, of course, is to get them to start talking about like, you know, “Well, no there’s good reasons.” But if you just say something about, like, “What is the purpose of doing bad things to your characters?” you’re never gonna get like an interesting response. You’re gonna get a very textbook response and it won’t grow. If you say it the other way, then it makes people explore on a more emotional level and you get more depth.


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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!

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