Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Creating a "bone to pick" section in your next panel discussion

Moderators should make a habit of listening to great interviewers for fresh ideas on lines of questioning or ways to bring panelists to a better level of discussion. There's just such an idea in episode 201 of The West Wing Weekly podcast, a favorite of mine, in which the hosts interview the series director Thomas Schlamme.

One of the hosts, hearing a mild complaint from the interviewee, says jokingly something along the lines of "we'll put that in the 'bone to pick' section." And they did come back to that issue at the end of the interview.

Joke though it may have been, I picked up on it as something that would make a great thematic section of any panel of pros. It creates a line of questioning that will allow all panelists to respond about something negative or something that's been bothering them. And if necessary, it also can serve as a moderator's back-pocket tool, kept aside for that moment when you need to keep panelists on the topic at hand, yet give them a chance later to complain about an unrelated thread.

How to include it? At some point during your questioning, or (as they do in the podcast) just before the conclusion, say, "It's time for our 'bone to pick' section, where I'm going to ask each panelist to share a bone they have to pick with __________________. Start us off, Fred: You've got a bone to pick with...?" You as moderator get to fill in that blank with your industry's best practices, a major customer base, a particular policy, and more.

You also may want to hold this option in reserve. If the panelists or the issues are contentious, you might want to use a "bone to pick" section to corral and contain complaints. If so, when those arise from the panel, announce you want to put them in the "bone to pick" section and keep track of them. Then air the list and the discussion later in the panel.

(Photo from the Library of Congress Flickr album of mystery photos, circa 1923. It's perfect to use as the slide announcing your "bone to pick" session at your next panel, and in the public domain.)

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.