Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A creative line of questioning for panels in controversial times

My ebook, The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels, has a long list of creative lines of questioning, because I think they are missing from many panels. But one of them especially suits the types of panels I think we will be having more frequently, with controversial topics and opposing points of view.

Picture it this way: You have a panel of experts who are addressing a public controversy. They may or may not agree with one another, and also are in opposition to some external force, be it political, economic, technical, or artistic. How can you, as the moderator, steer their discussion and prompt them to channel frustration, anger, and disagreement in constructive ways?

For panel situations like that, I prefer using questions such as "What makes you skeptical?" to let the panel share doubts and concerns, and "What would it take to reassure you?" to take them toward a vision of what would work, a positive complement to the complaining that may be going on. Especially effective on topics where there's a lot of enthusiasm or anger, these questions get at something more complex than just pro-and-con viewpoints. They help the audience understand what to look for to fuel doubt, and to encourage positive action. And the neutral language doesn't further inflame the topic, but helps add nuance and explanation. Try it, moderators!

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Columbia GSAPP)

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.