Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Keep 'em in your back pocket: Creative questions for moderators to ask

I collect questions.

At nearly any conference I attend, I'm taking notes...on the moderators' questions, looking for creative, pointed, or fun questions I can recommend to panel moderators to keep the discussion vivid and lively.

Here's a collection of just some of the questions I recommend you try in your repertoire as a moderator, and you'll find many more creative lines of questioning in The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels:

  • "Why not?" and "So what?", if delivered with precision, are brief but potent ways to get a panelist to say more, and do it in an energetic way.
  • For panels on topics of uncertainty and controversy, two questions--about skepticism and reassurance--can keep the tone constructive and civil, as well as enlightening.
  • To draw out a speaker who's skimming over something important, use this question from Face the Nation moderator John Dickerson. It's personal and effective. It's what you use when a speaker says something's a "problem," for example, without elaborating.
  • To get frank and revealing stories from speakers, use the Sheryl Crow question and ask them to describe "my favorite mistake." But there's a catch that makes it more effective.
  • Redeem this is NPR host Terry Gross's back-pocket question to get an interviewee to defend something unpopular--a task you should give your next panel. It's one of my favorites, and yields surprising answers.

Still thirsty for good questions? Try Frank Sesno's new book, Ask More, loaded with different types of questions and how to put them to use.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by VĂ©ronique Debord-Lazaro)

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.