Category Archives: producing discussions

Panelists Just Say No

It’s not a suggestion, it’s an observation.  And it can help you ask questions that keep the conversation flowing. Continue reading

Steal This Question: September 11, 2015

I can’t produce every discussion idea I come up with.  So let me share them here, and if you like them, please use them yourself (though attribution is always nice).  Here’s the first: Continue reading

Your Panelists Need No Introduction

Granted, they probably won’t realize it, but one of the worst things you can do for your panelists is introduce them. Continue reading

Price of Admission: One Question

Audience questions are a resource that can have a huge, positive impact on an event.  But the Q & A session at the end of the discussion is one of the weakest ways to use them.  There’s a much better alternative.

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My Favorite Question

Or at least, my favorite question that’s not related to a specific scenario:

“How would that work, exactly?”

Far, far, far too often, folks — especially those in politics or punditry — get away with sweeping, and sometimes compelling, statements about how things should/would work under the principles they espouse (or about the terrible way things work under their opponent’s leadership).  The only problem is, they’re not actually explaining the how it would work part.  And that’s the question that should always be asked: “Walk me through it.  Take us step by step and show us how it happens.”

The best case: the speaker knows what he/she is talking about, and by turning that knowledge into a concrete picture of how something plays out, conveys it to the audience far more vividly.

Worst case: Another liar is called out on his/her BS.

Examples: Continue reading

Is Anyone on a Panel Discussion a Bad Guy?

It’s painfully easy to wind up with a bad panelist on your discussion – someone long-winded, confusing, unresponsive, etc. – but extremely difficult to find someone willing to be a bad person. No matter how cynical and self-interested each of us can be in real life, in front of an audience almost everyone becomes a model of generosity, a true believer in the corporation’s mission statement, and/or a model of political correctness.

The problem is, it can sometimes be difficult to address the real challenges facing your audience if all you have is a panel full of saints.

How do you get panelists to admit to less-than-saintly behavior?   Here’s what I recommend: Continue reading

The First Good Question: Who is Your Audience?

Several times I’ve found myself working with some great organization, focused on a fascinating topic, that declares its goals for a particular event to be:

1. Create video that will explain to the masses the group’s topic, and why it matters; and

2. Provide content that will be riveting to the highly sophisticated, involved members that will make up most or all of the live audience.

The idea, of course, is to get the most bang for the buck: engage your members at a conference, while creating content that can be used to educate non-members in the future.

Yet the product of such thinking will not be a bang, but a fizzle.   An event that insists on explaining a topic as if one knows nothing about it will bore a knowledgeable audience to tears.  Even if one eventually gets to more sophisticated questions, the basic explanations have to come at the beginning — the most critical time for engagement.

Holding, and promoting, two completely different events — one for the general public and one for insiders — eliminates this problem, but at a great cost.  So, what can be done to engage a sophisticated audience, while creating content that will work for neophytes?

Here are my suggestions:

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