Tuesday, February 28, 2017

How moderators can draw out panelists to get more content

Smart panel moderators would do well to listen to journalists who do great on-air interviews in live settings, to learn how to frame questions, how to interject, and how to get the most out of your panelists. It's why I spend a lot of time listening to podcasted interviews, and one of my favorite interviewers is John Dickerson, host of Face the Nation on CBS.

On a recent Face the Nation (audio link), Dickerson interviewed Ohio Governor John Kasich about health care and reform of the Affordable Care Act, and Kasich said, "There's going to be a problem in the House of getting anything out of there that still provides coverage to people, and that's why the Republicans have to reach out to the Democrats."

"Explain that problem to me," Dickerson interjected, and got a more specific, more nuanced answer out of the governor, one that got to the conflicts in Congress that might get in the way of reform.

Here's why it works:
  • It's a simple declarative request: Not "would you like to explain" but "Explain that..." The shorter form helps it work as an interjection, and the language is neutral, allowing the answer to be whatever the speaker wants.
  • Including "to me" keeps the circle of connection seemingly small, almost as if you are asking the speaker to ignore the audience for a moment. That's fun for the audience, and may get you a better answer, one that is more specific and personal.
  • Most of all, asking someone to explain the problem keeps the content from skimming over some important nuances. Instead of letting his interviewee (or your panelist) get away with simply saying, "There's a problem!" you are there to ask what the problem is. It avoids assumptions and prompts the speaker to be more specific.
Steal that tactic for your next panel, moderators...

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Donkey Hotey)

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.