Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Great guide for moderators: @franksesno on the power of questions

If you're a panel moderator or speaker looking for an in-depth tutorial on how to frame questions--and how your audiences are framing them--look no further than the new book by journalist Frank Sesno, Ask More: The Power of Questions to Open Doors, Uncover Solutions, and Spark Change.

I say that in part because of the moderator's role. In public speaking, no other type of speaker is expected to both ask questions and field them. We--speakers, moderators, panelists, audiences, organizers--tend to take that role for granted, and one of the marvels of this book is that it takes very little for granted when it comes to questions and questioning.

Sesno breaks questions down by type, with chapters on questions that are diagnostic, strategic, or empathetic; questions that help you bridge to another topic, confront someone, prompt creative answers, solve problems or lead with a mission; and questions for situations that are scientific, entertaining, or evaluating a life and legacy. You'll never look at questions as a generic tool again.

In addition to the chapters discussing the types of questions, there's a fantastic hands-on "questions guide" that further breaks down each category, giving you different ways to ask questions of that type. Some are big, 30,000-feet-view questions; others are more detailed and probing. He also asks journalists and other everyday questioners to share their insights on asking effective questions in a wide range of situations. And because Sesno is himself a sought-after moderator and on-stage interviewer, you'll also find real-life moderation examples.

I suspect a lot of moderators and audience members just ask questions without thinking too much about their purpose. And Sesno notes that we're all missing a lot of great content due to the questions that go unasked:
What inspired me to write this book was a number of things—being a questioner myself, doing it for a living, doing it with people from all walks of life, and seeing around me how much was left on the table because others didn’t ask questions. When I was at CNN, a senior executive joined the company, and I watched him ask no questions as he arrived. Ultimately, he was not successful. I have been on boards of trustees and I have covered presidents. And thinking about leadership, I’ve found that when you don’t ask questions, you don’t find stuff out.
After you read this book, I doubt that will be a problem. Think about this as a guide that helps you get more out of each question: better answers, better engagement, and better completion of your goals for the session.

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.