Tuesday, November 1, 2016

3 key lessons for panel moderators from Chris Wallace

This election cycle in the United States has been many things, but it has certainly been a bonanza for moderators, yielding all sorts of tips and lessons. In 3 lessons every interviewer should learn from Chris Wallace's stellar debate performance, broadcasting insiders share 3 qualities that make sense even if you're moderating a panel discussion rather than a political debate. Wallace is the host of Fox News Sunday. From the article, the lessons are:
  1. Give context to provocative questions: "For example, on trade and open borders, here was Wallace’s question to Clinton: 'Secretary Clinton, I want to clear up your position on this issue, because in a speech you gave to a Brazilian bank, for which you were paid $225,000, we’ve learned from the WikiLeaks, that you said this, and I want to quote. ‘My dream is a hemispheric common market with open trade and open borders.’ So that’s the question… Is that your dream, open borders?'" That's a great example of a compact amount of context, along with a really short, specific question at the end.
  2. Guide the conversation politely but firmly: Speakers do wander, and the moderator's job is to bring them back to either the topic, or the time limit, or both. An example from the article: "When Trump veered from a question about immigration into discussion of Middle East policy, Wallace recognized that the commentary was still valuable and provided a brief extension: 'We’re a long way away from immigration, but I’m going to let you finish this topic. You’ve got about 45 seconds'." Pairing the warning signal--you're far from our topic--and pairing it with a specific time limit to wrap up the wandering makes for a great combination.
  3. Don't let speakers evade direct questions: "Wallace was politely relentless in pressing through these deflections and ended up pinning Trump down on one of the biggest questions of the moment: Will the GOP candidate, who often complains of a 'rigged election,' officially concede if the results fall in Clinton’s favor?....When Trump attempted to sidestep the question by talking about the media being 'dishonest and so corrupt,' Wallace interjected three times to force Trump back to the core issue of accepting defeat.In doing so, Wallace didn’t just continue asking the question; he took the time to eloquently explain the gravity of the issue." Go to the link to read the long, but well-phrased, question, and Wallace's follow-up, explaining just why the important issue could not be brushed off lightly.
(Creative Commons licensed photo by Donkey Hotey)

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