Powerful Panel Discussion Tip #288 – Scott McKain: Audience Q&A Do’s & Don’ts

Professional panel moderator Kristin Arnold asks Scott McKain, Speaker Hall of Fame and author of the book, “Create Distinction: What To Do When ‘Great’ Isn’t Good Enough To Grow Your Business,” about the do’s and don’ts of doing audience Q&A during a panel discussion at meetings, conferences, and conventions.

Video Transcript

Kristin: You had mentioned that you like to do Q&A out in the audience. So what are some of the things that are do’s and don’ts that you’ve learned by using that technique?

Scott: You never hand somebody the microphone. 

You know we’ve seen them where they have the microphones on the stands, you know scattered throughout the audience. Well, how do you stop that person? You know because they can stand there and…but if I have the microphone in my hand and someone asks the question and…in every group, there is always that person who is trying to take the microphone away, and I’ve got a death lock on that baby, I’m telling you that thing is not getting away from me because I can pull the mic back, that is the control and so you never hand the microphone to anyone else and that’s a part of how you maintain control and that’s why I like it. It’s that I can be in the audience and you know, if I point to somebody in the audience to ask a question, and they have a hard time expressing it or they’ve drawn on too long, it’s harder for me to control that from the stage without seeming too autocratic about it.

But If I’m in the audience and I have the microphone and the person is having a tough time, I can even put my arm around his shoulder and say, “You know Bill, that’s really interesting. Let me rephrase that.” You know, and act like I’m helping them as opposed to dictating to them.…

The great interviewers and the great moderators always have the next question based upon what’s just been said. And it’s one of those weird things, I think it’s one of those things…I don’t know. I know it’s one of those things that gets better with practice and that’s one of the challenges of this is it gets better with practice.

But it’s almost like you have to be of two minds simultaneously. One mind, focusing on what that person is saying and how you might follow up and get…you know…either follow up on that question that’s just been asked to get them to illuminate the point a little bit more or, you know, that natural follow-up question while simultaneously, your kind of scanning the audience and seeing the person you think can ask that next question that will be of value.

And it’s funny. I mean you’ve had this happen a hundred times. I mean you can look in the audience and you develop this ability to see who’s going to ask the next great question and who wants to give a speech.

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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.

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