So you have been asked to moderate a panel – how easy can that be? Like most things it is easy when you know how – what to do and what to avoid doing.
1. Know the format for the panel – if you are organising the panel work out what format will achieve your objectives. If you have been asked to moderate and someone else is organising make sure you ask. There are several ways to run a panel:
Every panellist presents a short speech, then open the floor for questions from the audience.
General conversation style – start with a question for each panellist then continue from there.
Questions from the audience. Give a short introduction to each panel list then open the discussion and take questions from the audience.
The panel can be a combination of the above – the important thing is to know your objective and the outcome you want to achieve and format the panel to achieve your outcome.
2. Know your panellists – contact the panellists and obtain a brief bio from each for your introductions. Do some research and see what their expertise is and how it fits into the theme of the panel. If possible meet the panellist or call them and have a chat prior to the panel event or get there early and introduce yourself to the panellists.
A successful panel should have no more than 5 panellists. This allows you to give equal time to each panellist.
3. Know your audience – have an idea on who the audience is and their connection to the panel and the panellists. Are they going to be hostile? Will there be awkward questions? How large will the audience be? What are their expectations?
4. Maintain control
As a moderator of a panel your most important job is to facilitate discussion and control the panel. Watch for the panellist that starts to waffle, ensure that each panellist has an equal opportunity to share their expertise and be involved.
Keep to time and keep it interesting. Some controversy can be good – bring in different points of view. Avoid boring the audience and keep the discussion balanced. Research and ask prepared questions. Be flexible to direct the conversation down a different avenue if it looks like it is provoking interest and involved discussion. However, always ensure that you stick close to the theme or desired outcome – avoid waffle.
Research your topic, the presenters and prepare questions as a guide line. Share the questions with the panellists before the event so that they can prepare.
Make sure you have prepared an introduction of the topic that is concise and clear to start the event.
Bonus Tip: Listening is an essential skill for the moderator. Listen to what the panellists are saying; listen to what the audience is saying.
Most of all have fun and enjoy the experience of moderating a panel.
Love you to share your experiences – let me know how you go….
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