WHEN Should Panelists Know the Questions in Advance?

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I was moderating a panel discussion this week when an audience member approached me afterward and asked,

“Did the panelists know the questions in advance?”

In this case, the answer was, “Yes, the panelists knew about 80% of the questions in advance….why do you ask?”

“Just curious,” was the response.  “Ummmm, did it look like the panelists were too scripted?”

“No,” he said.  “Just curious.”

Well, that got me thinking about precisely WHEN I consider sharing all (or most) of the curated questions with the panelists.

When to consider sharing the curated questions with the panelists:

  • Risk.  With some topics, there is a risk to having a more spontaneous reaction to a question.  Especially when your panelist is a lawyer, executive or celebrity.  Anything they say reflects on them as an individual or as a representative of their organization.  Saying something that is not intended (or permissible) makes it a risk.
  • Exposure.  If the session is being videotaped or live-streamed, then the risk factor (see above) increases exponentially!  (Although, since everyone with a smartphone is a potential broadcaster – but I guess when you see the camera at the back of the room, it becomes a big deal!)
  • Personal Choice.  Perhaps it’s the first time a panelist is on a panel – or the moderator is not as familiar with the industry and/or specific wording of the questions.  By sharing the questions, it will make the panelists and/or moderator more comfortable and confident.

For this week’s panel, we hit the trifecta!  Lawyers, executives, videotaping and a virgin panelist.  So that’s why I shared most of the prepared questions in preparation for an amazing panel discussion.

Related Articles:

Innovative Panel Discussion Format: “The P-Cubed Format”

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

Pop the Cork Technique for Audience Q&A

Kristin Arnold, professional panel moderator, and high-stakes meeting facilitator, shares her best practices for interactive, interesting, and engaging panel presentations. For more resources like this, or to have Kristin moderate your next panel visit the Powerful Panels official website.

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