If your panel happens to be the 10 best-polling of the Republican candidates for president, the media notice when you do that, too. In last week's debate on Fox News, Donald Trump got the nod, and ran with it, more than any other candidate. From the New York Times:
Despite the assurances from the moderators that Mr. Trump would not hijack the high-profile opportunity for the Republican field to introduce itself to America, the businessman could not be stopped.
He received about three times as many opportunities to speak as some of his fellow candidates — a gap that left lesser-known rivals, like Ben Carson, moaning about an elusive spotlight. “I wasn’t sure I was going to get to talk again,” Mr. Carson said plaintively.The Times also expressed the extra Trump time this way, in an infographic. The dark bars indicate answers longer than a minute:
In everyday panel discussions, some moderators and speakers handle the fairness and balance issue by following a practice I've come to dislike: Having every panelist answer every question, which, while fair, tends to result in responses like "As Fred just noted..." That makes the answer take up more time than it's worth, much of the time.
Instead, consider these ways to keep your calling on speakers balanced:
- Alternate questions for the entire panel with questions for one speaker, and say out loud what you're doing when you pose the question. Then be sure each speaker gets an individual question.
- Alternate calling on male panelists with calling on female panelists. One of the more subtle ways we make women speakers disappear is to keep calling on men almost exclusively, whether the question is for the panel or the audience.
- Prep your speakers in advance for how you will dole out the questions. Ask them not to chime in on individual questions, and to participate in questions to the entire panel.
- Use a timer. In the name of making sure there's enough time for Q&A, set a kitchen timer or your phone timer for 30-second answers, and make a game out of it.
(Creative Commons licensed photo by Gage Skidmore. New York Times infographic.)
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