Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Back-pocket moderator questions: "Why not?" and "So what?"

I sit through far too many panels where the broad statements of the speakers aren't challenged--even gently. For me, the audience member, that's not discussion. It's deadly boring.

Fortunately, every moderator has--or could have--some back-pocket questions ready for just such occasions. You can liven things up simply by asking "Why is that?" after a pronouncement. It's a prompt for further explanation, and perhaps, clarification.

Even better, use "Why not?" or "So what?" These questions are energizing, provocative, and require a good defense or explanation. Your tone of voice counts a lot here. With a pleasant tone, a curious "why not?" or a puzzled "so what?" don't need to add too much tension. If you're concerned about sounding rude, you can always sandwich them with additional statements, as in, "If you don't mind my asking, so what? That's a pretty common circumstance. I'd love to hear why that's important to you." A smile helps, and so does warning your panelists in advance that you are likely to come back with a "why not?" or "so what?" question, which allows them follow-up time.

Don't be afraid to make these countering questions. Often, what follows a "so what?" is an empassioned defense, a stronger opinion, or just a more cogent point.

(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.