Questions and Answers live – the Expert Panel “on the floor”

August 07, 2013 | bit-wartung | Methods & Tools |


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The “Expert panel on the floor”- Method can resolve open questions, alternatively to the expert panel and the fish bowl. The major asset of this method is the engagement of every participant’s knowledge in the solution finding.

By Ernst Bolliger, Agridea

We developed and tested the Method “Expert panel on the floor” successfully as a part of our training for facilitators. The aim was that by the end of the training all usually remaining open questions would find an answer. We wanted not only to share our knowledge and experience as trainers, but access all knowledge and experience available in the group of participants. There is no more a difference between participant and trainer: All contribute their knowledge and experience: Everybody is a know-body.

While in a traditional expert panel two or three experts are sitting in front of a group answering the questions of an audience, a fish bowl leaves room (in addition to the experts) for representatives of the audience to step in into the role of an expert for a moment to contribute their answers to specific questions. The expert panel “on the floor” gives room for all participants in the room to take the role of the expert for a while and share their knowledge and experience.

A hint regarding the visualization

While in a traditional expert panel two secretaries take care of the visualization, in the “expert panel on the floor”, every expert is his/her own secretary.

  • In a first step, the person with a question presents his/her question written on a card.
  • Every participant in a workshop that is able to contribute a meaningful answer stands next to the question on the floor and contributes his/her answer.
  • After having spelled out the answer, s/he proceeds to the secretary’s desk, writes the answer on a card and puts the card on the floor, next to the question.
  • While writing the answer on a card, the next participant already contributes a second, third, fourth answer.  
  • At the end, a photo shot is taken from all the question-answer-clusters on the floor, and the participants that asked a question can get hold of all the answers produced. Within one hour, 10 to 15 questions can be dealt with extensively getting 4 to 10 answers each.

What are the basic assumptions behind the three methods?

Traditional Expert Panel Fish Bowl Expert Panel
“on the floor”
2 to 3 experts have 
the knowledge
2 or 3 experts have
a lot of knowledge;                       
(Some) participants 
have additional
knowledge and experience
Everybody is a
All can contribute
valuable knowledge
and experience
Participants are
less experienced
or ignorant
The bigger part of the
participants are less
experienced or ignorant
All can learn from
the experience and
knowledge of others

Some pictures to illustrate the “Expert panel on the floor” method

(1) The question is presented (yellow card)
(2) Any participant contributes his/her knowledge/experience to the raised question














(3) The participant joins the secretariat’s desk to write down his/her answer (blue cards) 


(4 ) The blue cards are placed next to the respective question on the floor

(5) A photo shot is taken for the documentation and the requesting participant can get hold of all the answer cards






Comments to“Questions and Answers live – the Expert Panel “on the floor””

  1. Nadia von Holzen says:

    Dear Ernst, interesting panel and I really like the idea of putting the questions on the floor. I can imagine that this triggers a great dynamic.
    Just a question: Are you serious with “Experts have the knowledge” and “the participants are less experienced or ignorant”? I wonder? This is black and white. And I remember many discussions on ‘who is the expert’. We work with knowledgeable and experienced people all experts in their field of work.
    Especially Fish Bowl works fine among peers; it’s great with resource persons too. There are various options: Keynote speaker fishbowl; panelists’ fishbowl, heterogeneous fishbowl; fishbowl battle.
    Best, Nadia

  2. Riff Fullan says:

    I also like the idea of this methodology, not only the unusual way of putting Qs and As on the floor, but the high level of efficiency in getting the ‘wisdom of the crowd’. It’s a bit like an Open Space, but without so much time spent (even if it also means less time for discussion). There is great potential for more focused outputs/outcomes than open space. I also tend to agree with Nadia’s comments on fishbowl possibilities. Fishbowls do not have to be so restricted/limited in terms of participation.

    Finally, I also have a question: have you found the Expert Panel on the floor method better for certain size groups? I get the impression it would work well for 10-20 people, but what about 50 or 100?

    Best, Riff


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