21 insightful questions to ask when moderating your next panel discussion (plus some great tips on creating your own) (2023)

Esther Snippe 3 Oct 2017 6 min reads



Average: 5 (1 vote)

“I come up with dozens of questions for the panel ahead of time… I literally write 30-50 questions down in advance, knowing that I may only get to 5 of them, but when I do they will be phrased exactly how I want them, and the panel will be kept on track.”
 -Tom Webster, writer, speaker, and panel moderator.

As a panel moderator, asking insightful and interesting questions is one of your biggest responsibilities.

Don’t make up your mind about the topic.

Rather, come in with the perspective that you are intensely interested in the topic and want to gain insights by questioning the panelists.

21 insightful questions to ask when moderating your next panel discussion (plus some great tips on creating your own) (2)

Your questions can spark a great discussion that will leave the audience both informed and entertained. So, make sure you know what you want to ask before you get on stage.

Here are some questions that will help get you started.

21 Questions to ask when moderating your next panel discussion

While creating questions specifically for your panel is the very best way to make your discussion unique and engaging, sometimes it can be difficult to know where to start. Continue reading below to find out how to create and crosscheck your questions, or you can ask the professionals from Edubirdie to help you with both creating and editing questions.

Here are 21 questions you could ask almost any panel to get it started or to keep it going if you run out of your own questions.

  1. How can we advance the [field/topic/industry]?
  2. How has the [field/topic/industry] changed in the past 5 years? What do you predict will happen in the next 5 to 10 years?
  3. What is the biggest challenge in the [field/topic/industry] at the moment?
  4. What are the most critical changes that we must make to face the future effectively?
  5. What effect has [specific technology] made on the [field/topic/industry]?
  6. Who is making the greatest advancements in the [field/topic/industry], and what are they doing?
  7. What is the most interesting trend for 2019?
  8. What do you think the best outcome for the [audience/industry/planet] would be?
  9. What is the number one way we can make a substantial difference?
  10. In your publication [book/article/etc] you stated that [view point]. How did you come to that? [Follow up question to another panelist]: Do you have a different perspective?
  11. What made you decide to tackle this subject? How did you get into the [industry/field], and why do you stay?
  12. What are some of the ways people from your [industry/field] are making a difference in the world?
  13. What has helped you get to where you are [influential/effective/in the forefront] and what advice would you have for others who want to set off in a similar direction?
  14. What are common misconceptions people have? How can we combat these misconceptions and communicate more effectively?
  15. Do you remember a specific experience of where you wished that [you/your organization/your industry] had done something differently? If you were to do it over, what would you change?
  16. A follow-up to the previous question: By way of comparison, do you remember something you’ve done or something you wish everyone was doing, and why?
  17. What’s the question you are most tired of hearing on this subject, and what would you like to say about it so you never have to answer it again?
  18. What question would you like to hear [specific panelist] answer?
  19. What is one piece of practical advice you would give to someone starting out?
  20. What is the best resource for people who want to dive in deeper?
  21. Is there anything we’re leaving out here that needs to be addressed?

Create your own questions

When creating your own questions, you need to start with going back to the purpose of your panel. Why are you here, and why should your audience care?

21 insightful questions to ask when moderating your next panel discussion (plus some great tips on creating your own) (3)


Each question should come back to this and constantly be pushing your panelists towards creating value and insights for your audience.

What kind of questions should you ask?

  • What will the audience be interested in learning about?

  • Will this question draw upon the panelist's experiences in a useful way?

  • Is this question open-ended, or will you get a simple “yes” or “no” answer?

  • Will the question start a deeper conversation? Does it have the potential to spark a debate?

  • Is this question something you can’t easily find the answer to on the internet?

  • Why is this particular panelist on the panel? What unique perspective can they add? How can you draw that out?

Question Checklist

After you’ve created your list of questions, go back through and check to make sure it passes the checklist below.

21 insightful questions to ask when moderating your next panel discussion (plus some great tips on creating your own) (4)

5-Point checklist - Is the question:

  • Clearly tied to the topic being discussed.

  • Reflective of the panelists’ perspectives, experiences, or interests.

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  • Addressing the issues, challenges or interests of the audience.

  • An important topic to discuss right now.

  • Going to ignite a conversation (controversial/different perspectives or experiences).

Where do you start? Opening questions

The first question will set the tone for the panel and is crucial to sparking immediate intrigue.

Avoid over-generalities and try to make it interesting.

The first person to speak will also influence the tone of the panel, so consider who you want to start with and why.

If you start with the quietest person on the panel, will this get them talking right away and keep them engaged in the conversation?

If you start with the person with the most experience, will they be able to give a well-rounded background to the topic right away?

What about the person who originally proposed the idea for the panel? Will they be the most likely to set the tone you are looking for?

Should you ask everyone the same opening question to get their initial perspectives at the beginning?

3 Types of opening questions

21 insightful questions to ask when moderating your next panel discussion (plus some great tips on creating your own) (5)

- Easy warm-up

Start with a broad, simple question so the panelists can get comfortable.

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Some examples include asking for a state-of-play, some background on the topic, or how they got involved.

Don’t spend too long here, though. Quickly segue into more controversial topics, or you could risk boring your audience.

- Fire-starter

Skip the niceties, and start with a bang.

Establish perspective by breaking out a provocative question.

Some examples: ask each panelist to offer a strong opinion on the topic, or to describe the greatest challenge we (or the industry) face moving forward.

- Audience-reader

Sometimes, it is not possible to find out the knowledge level of your audience before the panel, so starting with a question that will help you, and the panelists, determine this at the beginning can be very helpful.

Find out the level of their knowledge by asking for a show of hands.

For example: “How many people have been in the industry for less than a year?”, “Over a year?”, “Over 5 years?”, or “Who thinks they could probably run this panel?” (asked with light humor); or “How many people agree with [a certain perspective on the topic]?” “How many disagree?”

Now, get out there and ask some great questions!

You have a special role as a moderator to a panel. Your task is to make it as insightful, interesting, and informative as possible.

You might also like:

  • What can panel moderators learn from Charlie Rose, Larry King and Oprah Winfrey?

  • It ain't over ‘till it's over: How to expertly end a panel discussion

  • 6 Ideas for Moderating Engaging Panel Discussions

Panel moderating experts: what are some questions you always fall back on? Please share your experience, and we may include your advice in a future article. Contact us.

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Looking for more opportunities to moderate panels? Find out more about being listed on SpeakerHub.

Disclaimer: this article includes a paid product promotion.
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What types of questions are good to ask in a panel discussion? ›

25 Questions to ask your panelists about the discussion:
  • What perspective will you bring to the discussion?
  • What do you think is the most important issue we will discuss?
  • What do you think our audience would like to know about this topic?
  • What are some of the most common misconceptions about this topic?
Oct 16, 2022

How to create great questions for your panelists to answer during your panel discussion? ›

Sequence the Questions.

Benefits. Move to the benefits and/or consequences about why the audience should care. Specifics. Ask more specific questions where the panelists will be more inclined to share anecdotes or concrete examples.

What are 3 basic characteristics of a good moderator? ›

5 things a great moderator needs to do...
  • Anticipate needs and take initiative to stay ahead.
  • Prioritize tasks to achieve efficiency and optimize resources.
  • Engage with focus and empathy to connect with others.
  • Adapt quickly to changing situations to stay agile and responsive.
Jan 3, 2023

What are 4 good questions to ask? ›

Questions About Hopes, Dreams, and Fears
  • What is on your bucket list?
  • What are you most thankful for?
  • What is your biggest regret in life?
  • What are you most afraid of?
  • What do you feel most passionate about?
  • How do you like to spend your free time?
  • What would your perfect day be like?
Jul 5, 2022

What are effective discussion questions? ›

Ask a specific question, one that won't have an obvious right answer, likely in one of the following categories.
  • Personal reflections: “What do you think about ___?” “How do you feel about ___?”
  • Past experiences: “In the past, how have you responded when ___?” “Have you ever had an experience where ___?”

What makes a strong discussion question? ›

Start with Open-Ended Questions – these types of questions help begin a discussion because they encourage multiple viewpoints. They also tend to invite students to share their opinions, which can generate additional topics or define crucial issues.

What are the 3 types of discussion questions? ›

THREE TYPES OF QUESTIONS: 1. Factual 2. Interpretive 3. Evaluative Page 5 FACTUAL QUESTIONS Page 6 FACTUAL QUESTIONS Everyone will eventually agree on the answer.

How do you become an effective moderator? ›

10 Practical Tips for Every Event Moderator
  1. Do thorough research. ...
  2. Know your participants. ...
  3. Prepare the perfect opening line. ...
  4. Memorize the speakers' names. ...
  5. Be radically neutral. ...
  6. Be the bridge between the speaker and the audience. ...
  7. Allow the audience enough time to formulate questions. ...
  8. Always ask one question at a time.
Nov 15, 2017

What are the key points to make successful panel discussion? ›

How to run a successful panel discussion
  • Define the purpose of the panel discussion. ...
  • Choose panelists with diverse perspectives and expertise. ...
  • Structure the discussion for focus and productivity. ...
  • Moderate the discussion for focus and productivity. ...
  • Encourage audience engagement and interaction.
Jan 17, 2023

How do I make my panel discussion more interactive? ›

6 ways to make your next panel discussion super interactive
  1. 1/ Over prepare.
  2. 2/ Get the audience involved.
  3. 3/ Ask the questions your audience want.
  4. 4/ Talk specifics.
  5. 5/ Let the audience respond.
  6. 6/ Don't forget to listen!
  7. … and after the event.
Jun 30, 2016

What are the 4 duties of a moderator? ›

Moderator Responsibilities
  • Room Check. Make a concerted effort to be the first one to arrive in the room. ...
  • Making Introductions. Be sure to get biographical information from your session's speakers well before the session. ...
  • Running the Clock. ...
  • Conducting the Discussion. ...
  • Ending the Session.

What should a moderator do in a panel discussion? ›

The role of the moderator is to direct the flow of the discussion, making sure everyone has enough time and space to voice their opinion and expertise. An effective moderator knows how to keep track of time, break the ice, remain neutral, and lead a bigger group of people.

What is the property of a good moderator? ›

Properties of Good Moderator :

The moderator must not absorb neutrons itself. This means it should have a relatively low neutron absorption cross-section. The moderator should efficiently slow down the neutrons. It should be in pure form.

What skills is necessary to be a moderator? ›

This article from Quirks.com outlines the 7 most important qualities inherent any every great moderator.
  • Natural curiosity. ...
  • Ease in interacting with people. ...
  • Ability to remain impartial, open, and unbiased. ...
  • Flexibility. ...
  • Strong verbal skills. ...
  • Excited about the process of discovery. ...
  • Creating comfort and trust.
Sep 16, 2011

What is the rule of moderator? ›

1 Focus on the participants' goals, evaluations, feelings and opinions. => Which for you means, to step back with your personal contributions or opinions. 2 Take every participant serious and treat all participants in an equal way. => Allow all opinions and ideas to be presented.

What are two good moderators? ›

Other popular moderators are graphite, heavy water, sodium, and CO2. These materials should have low neutron absorption cross-section and can also act as coolant requiring high thermal conductivity and heat capacity to absorb the heat.

What are good 21 questions? ›

21 Questions List
  • What's the weirdest dream you've ever had?
  • If you could travel to any year in a time machine, what year would you choose and why?
  • If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
  • What's one of the most fun childhood memories you have?
May 5, 2021

What are 21 questions? ›

21 Questions is a conversation-starting game that involves asking a series of questions to learn more about somebody. It can be played online or in real life and works with two people or a larger group.

What are the 5 powerful questions? ›

5 Powerful Questions Every People Manager Needs to Know and Use
  • What do you think? Not rocket science is it? ...
  • What makes you think this? ...
  • Can you tell me more? ...
  • How can I support you with this? ...
  • What do you think are the next steps?

What are good discussion director questions? ›

Sample Questions for Discussion Director:

What were you thinking about as you read? What did the text make you think about? What do you think this text/passage was about? How might other people (of different backgrounds) think about this text/passage?

How do you frame a good discussion question? ›

Below you'll find four tips to help you write questions that accomplish these goals:
  1. Ask Open-Ended Questions. Strong open-ended questions guide our thoughts without expecting specific answers. ...
  2. Think about Community. ...
  3. More Questions = More Participation. ...
  4. Offer Incentive (Grade the Discussion)

How can you make a discussion more effective? ›

  1. Respect the contribution of other speakers. ...
  2. Listen well to the ideas of other speakers; you will learn something.
  3. Acknowledge what you find interesting.
  4. Remember that a discussion is not a fight. ...
  5. Respect differing views. ...
  6. Think about your contribution before you speak. ...
  7. Try to stick to the discussion topic.

What are the three C's of group discussion? ›

The three "Cs" which rank you high on this parameter are clarity (the main points to be discussed), content (the vertical depth in each point) and confidence.

What are the 4 forms of questions? ›

There are four types of questions in English: general or yes/no questions, questions using wh-words, choice questions, and disjunctive or tag/tail questions.

What are the 5 primary types of questions? ›

There are five basic types of questions: factual, convergent, divergent, evaluative and combination.

How do you moderate a panel discussion phrase? ›

Don't say words and phrases like, “You're absolutely correct‚” “I don't think that's right‚” and so on. An occasional interjection like, “That's interesting,” or “Tell me more about that,” is more appropriate. Let the audience listen to what the panelists have to say, and form their own opinion.

What is the most challenging part of being a moderator? ›

a) Psychological Stress

One of the biggest challenges that moderators face is psychological stress.

What are the core values of being a respected moderator? ›

The most important personal qualities needed to become a good content moderator are patience, integrity, and curiosity.

What are the three main components of panel discussion? ›

A panel discussion typically consists of three to five industry experts or leaders, a moderator and audience members. Panels may be larger or smaller depending on the topic, the goal of the discussion or the size of the audience.

What is panel discussion techniques? ›

What is it? Panel discussion is a great way to engage students in meaningful classroom discussions. A selected group of 4-6 students act as panelists and the remaining students are the audience. Students conduct discussions around a particular topic but from different perspectives.

How do you engage the audience in a panel? ›

Involve the audience throughout

You can do this by asking them to submit questions before or during the panel discussion, by using polls or surveys to get their feedback, by inviting them to share their opinions or experiences, or by creating breakout groups or activities to foster interaction.

How do you increase participation in a discussion? ›

3. Create an Atmosphere That Encourages Participation
  1. Be respectful.
  2. Speak loud enough so everyone can hear.
  3. Listen to classmates.
  4. Don't interrupt who is speaking.
  5. Build on your classmate's comments with your comments.
  6. Use participation to not only answer questions but to seek help or ask for clarification.

What are good questions for 20 questions? ›

  • Have You Ever Dine And Dashed At A Restaurant? ...
  • Would You Rather Have Endless Money Or Endless Love? ...
  • Have You Ever Been In A Car Crash — And It Was Your Fault? ...
  • If You Could Star In A Movie, What Movie Would It Be? ...
  • What Is Your Most Frequently Used Emoji? ...
  • What Was The Last Thing You Stole Or Shoplifted?
Oct 17, 2017

How can I be a good chat moderator? ›

Monitor the questions from the chat for the speaker and present them during the live Q&A portion. pose questions to keep the chat current and focused on content. Keep participants involved. If there is a pause for an activity or discussion, update them on what is being said.

What are the 7 essential questions? ›

The seven essential questions are: (1) The Kickstart Question; (2) The AWE Question; (3) The Focus Question; (4) The Foundation Question; (5) The Lazy Question; (6) The Strategic Question; and (7) The Learning Question. I have adapted them for the purposes of conflict coaching.

What is the 2 question rule for meetings? ›

Two-Question Rule: When others ask you a question, you answer it and then you ask them the same or closely related question right back. Example: “How are you.” / “Fine. How are you?”

What are stimulating questions in a meeting? ›

How can we put these pieces together in a new and different way?” “If we dug down deeper, what would we find?” “What is the single most important thing we should focus on?” “What is the source of the problem?”

How do you ask an intelligent question in a meeting? ›

22 Questions to Ask to Sound Smart in Meetings
  1. “Will it scale?” ...
  2. “Let's take a step back, what exactly are we trying to solve?” ...
  3. “What do YOU think about this?” ...
  4. “How can I be of greater help on that?” ...
  5. “I think this is beneficial to our department, however, I want to be sure the same goes to the marketing team.
Mar 19, 2019

What is 20 or 21 questions? ›

The 21 questions game differs from the classic 20 questions game, which focuses on asking questions to guess an object. In contrast, the 20 questions game is about asking questions to get to know each other better.

What is the 20 questions method? ›

The premise of the game is simple: One person, called the “answerer,” thinks of an object. The other player — the “questioner” — asks up to 20 yes-or-no questions in order to determine what object the answerer is thinking about. If the questioner guesses correctly within 20 questions, they win.


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