But that territory belongs to the moderator during question time. Here's how any moderator can keep the questions--and the questioned--on time and on point:
- Reframe the question within time limits: If a long or unclear question is posed and time is short, reframe it out loud to keep the speakers focused. "Instead of talking about all your best work, since time is short, would each of you give us just one example?" or "You may have many regrets, but what's the thing you regret most?" or "I'd like the panel to focus on the first part of that question, about beginnings" are all examples of how to do this.
- Question the audience member with the long-winded question: If an audience member rises with a question that turns out to be a long-winded statement, interrupt and say, "Please, let's have your question so that others can have a turn." No question, then? "Thanks, that's a great point to add to the discussion. Next question?"
- Catch the speaker who's trying to expand his answer time: Some speakers, seeking to artfully get more air time, will use a question as an excuse and create an answer that leads to requesting that they show or do something more. As moderator, feel free to interrupt and say, "Fred, I wish we could show that video, but time is short. How about posting it to YouTube for us?" Don't be afraid to keep things crisp and moving forward.
(Creative Commons licensed photo by the European Wind Energy Association)
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