Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The panel moderator's treasure trove: 8 tips on managing Q&A

Managing questions and answers is a big part of the moderator's role, and it doesn't just involve calling on audience members. A good moderator will discuss question time in advance with the panelists, laying out how she intends to handle the session and what speakers should do in a variety of situations. Use this collection of posts to prep yourself and your panel for the questions to come:

  1. Don't approach the speaker-audience exchange as "breaking up a fight." Keep your cool, acknowledge difficult issues, and don't forget to thank those contributing, whether they're on the floor or the panel. You don't need to feel as if the discussion is getting away from you if you prepare for controversial questions.
  2. Want the audience to sense there's plenty of time for questions? Opt for a moderator-led panel...that is, one with no presentations.
  3. Practice how to handle the long-winded, off-topic question, the kind every moderator dreads. A few tools in your toolkit will help you, the panel, and the rest of the audience survive it.
  4. Want better gender balance from your panel's presentation? Apply balance to the way you call on men and women in the audience.
  5. Work with speakers in advance to avoid "what she said" answers to audience questions. Your audience will reward you with enthusiasm! One moderator even shared my ebook with her panel to ensure that everyone on stage would approach questions in the same way.
  6. Have some questions of your own for the panel, either to get things rolling or to fill a pause in the audience questions. One of my favorite creative lines of questioning is Redeem This.
  7. Need to speed up the questioned panelist or the questioner? Be ready with tactics to reframe the question and set verbal time limits, on the fly.
  8. You may need to interrupt a panelist to make sure the question stays on time or on topic. Here are 6 smart ways to interrupt panelists when you need to do so.

You'll find even more tips--the real treasure trove on Q&A--in my ebook, at the link below.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by David Calhoun)

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.