Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Creative lines of questioning for moderators: Redeem this

I've got creative panel themes and creative lines of questioning for moderators--15 of each--in The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels. But I admit that my favorite line of questioning is cribbed from NPR Fresh Air radio host Terry Gross. I'm happy to give her credit: The host of an hour-long interview show about the arts, society, politics, and more, Gross is a deft interviewer, and an on-air interviewer is a great model for a panel moderator--particularly a panel moderator who needs to learn to interrupt, ask questions, and serve as a true guide for the discussion.

Gross from time to time asks her interview subjects to "redeem this," and I think that's a great question for a group of panel speakers. Here's how it works: Ask each speaker to pick an unpopular practice, item or tool that they happen to like a lot, and redeem it--telling the audience why they think its charms have been unfairly overlooked. As moderator, you also could choose the item or practice to be redeemed and ask the panel to defend it.

What would that look like? Here are a few examples I can think of:
  • An IT specialist might redeem a much-hated piece of software
  • A food critic might defend the street hot dog or similar fare
  • A television producer might justify a famously bad sitcom
You could ask each speaker to redeem something specific, or ask all of them to redeem the same thing. Think of topics that qualify as professional guilty pleasures, or things everyone uses but no one will admit to using, or out-of-fashion but once popular approaches. All are potential fodder for a "redeem this" panel theme or line of questioning. Have fun with this one! It has the advantage of surprise, and will yield unusual answers from your panel. And isn't that what the audience is hoping for?

Go here to read more NPR Fresh Air interviews. Who knows what lines of questioning or themes you'll find for your next panel? Find 14 more like this one in my ebook, which you can order at the link below.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Adam Schwelgert)

Need more coaching on how to be a better panel moderator? Order the new ebook The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels. At just $3.99 and available in many formats, it's a great back-pocket coach to take on stage with you in your smartphone or tablet. Find more tips on public speaking on The Eloquent Woman blog.