How to Frame a Hot Seat Topic
The Success Alliance


How to Frame a Hot Seat Topic

When a mastermind group member sits in the Hot Seat, sometimes he doesn’t know how to frame out his topic or question so that the other members can follow along.

This can lead to a rambling, disjointed Hot Seat presentation that confuses the other members. Then the members spend so much time asking questions to gain clarity, that there’s precious little time left for brainstorming and finding solutions.

Your job as the Facilitator is to help them narrow their frame to encompass the essence of their topic or question.

You are trying to get four pieces of information from the member in the Hot Seat during their presentation:

  1. What help do you want from your mastermind group?
  2. What is the problem or situation you want to explore?
  3. What decision do you need to make?
  4. What have you tried already?

Instead of starting chronologically with their entire story, ask them to first frame their request as a question. We call this the Ultimate Question.

Then, after they ask the Ultimate Question, they can give the background information:

  • the history of what’s happened so far
  • where they are stuck
  • what they’re thoughts are around this topic
  • what they’ve already tried
  • how this situation relates to their goals

Two examples

For instance, say that a business mastermind group member is trying to set a price for their new product. Instead of starting their presentation with the background about why they’re confused about their pricing structure for their new product, have them start by stating the Ultimate Question they want answered in the meeting: For my target audience and my profit goals, is $389 the right price for this product?

Or, in a mastermind group for CEOs, start with the Ultimate Question: What factors do I need to consider when informing my employees that I’m retiring? Then the member can list some of the things he’s already thought about (or is concerned about) and the group can brainstorm to fill in the blanks for him.

By asking the Hot Seat member to condense his topic down to one question, he thinks more clearly about what he wants from the group.

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Put the Ultimate Question first

If he tells his entire story first, we don’t know which threads to follow and which to ignore. However, if he first says, “I want to get the answer to this specific question,” we can easily hold the Ultimate Question in our minds, and pay attention to the back story, looking for what is important. It also allows us to ask superior clarifying questions.

If you have a limited amount of time for Hot Seats in your meetings, another way to ask members to frame their topic is by limiting how much time they have to talk about it. You can do it in two different ways:

  • Limit them to 5 minutes to talk about their situation
  • Ask them to condense their Hot Seat topic to one Ultimate Question and four sentences about the background of the situation

As you know, I’m a big fan of preparation work. If members think through their Hot Seat topic in advance, instead of processing their thoughts live during the meeting, they come to the meeting with a clear, strong Hot Seat topic and Ultimate Question. And that leads to a successful mastermind group meeting!

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Want to learn how to start a mastermind group? Click here to get my free video tutorial on how to create a mastermind group of your own.

10 thoughts on “How to Frame a Hot Seat Topic”

  1. Michael Gionta says:

    GREAT Blog post and great coaching! This will really help me in my mastermind group! Thanks!

    1. Karyn Greenstreet says:

      Hey, Mike, I’m glad you found it helpful! Hot Seats can be confusing, especially for a new group that’s just getting to know how to mastermind together.

  2. Laurie Wann says:

    I love the Ultimate Question – what a great approach. Thanks Karyn – this will really help me “unravel the ball of yarn”. I’m a huge advocate of hot seat prep, too!

    1. Karyn Greenstreet says:

      I find getting people to be succinct is a real challenge, Laurie! 🙂

  3. Terri Maurer says:

    Brought back memories of a group of women business owners I used to belong to. There was one gal who would show up only infrequently and when she did, it was to monopolize the meeting. Her questions were ‘enormous’ in scope and asked for insane amounts of feedback – and work – by other members. I thought of using electric cattle prods on those who went on and on and on, but this is a much better – and civil – approach to take. Focus and clear direction – what else is needed for a successful hotseat? Thanks for clarifying.

    1. Karyn Greenstreet says:

      That’s a difficult situation, Terri. If she had shown up more frequently, her problems probably wouldn’t have snowballed to such a size. Perhaps in the first meeting, a discussion of How To Hot Seat would help to set the ground rules (though some folks like to bend the rules, right?).

      I’ve had success with having occasional longer meetings — even mastermind group retreat weekends — where members get to bring bigger topics to the group. Or perhaps a quarterly or year-end longer meeting for big-picture planning purposes.

  4. Marja Dettmer- Ransijn says:

    Thank you Karyn for clarifying on this topic!
    I also notice that it takes a while before members actually ‘get it’. It needs training to be able to ask their core question first and then elaborate on the rest. I am considering a half day training (live, online or video) to give them a head start before joining into a group.

    1. Karyn Greenstreet says:

      That’s a good idea, Marja, especially a video that they could refer back to when needed. Or maybe a practice session, where there’s no brainstorming, just practice in constructing and tightening a Hot Seat.

  5. Lisa Honold says:

    Oh Karyn. You always have great content! And this is stellar. I agree–require preparation so they have a topic before they sit down. Then the act of asking the Big Question, followed by enough details is fantastic. Thanks!

    1. Karyn Greenstreet says:

      I’m glad you found the blog post helpful, Lisa! 🙂

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