Have you ever...
...had a panel moderator who liked the sound of his own voice a little too much?
...sat through a discussion where one of the panelists hogged the stage so other panelists never got to speak?
...watched as the audience wasted time with a bunch of irrelevant questions?
A great panel moderator fixes that!
But not all moderators are great. You need to focus on finding a moderator who will create the best experience for your audience by educating, entertaining, and interacting with them.
At your next event, implement a BDA (that’s just my way of saying before, during, and after) process, and ask your moderator to consider the following strategies:
Before the panel:
• Create bullet points for discussion and share with the panelists.
• Organize a conference call so the panelists can connect.
• Get photos, social media information, and short biographies of panelists.
• Provide three questions to panelists in advance to help them prepare.
• Keep those questions contextual so panelists can be flexible in their responses.
• Prepare case studies and examples you can add to complement panelist input.
• Manage logistics: i.e., make sure everyone has water, individual microphones, and seating, and advise panelists to silence their cellphones.
• Determine the social media strategy: What hashtag are you using? Who will manage questions that are tweeted by audience members?
• Determine the seating and speaking order; begin with a strong panelist.
During the panel
• Kristin Arnold, a Certified Professional Facilitator, says, “Start with something interesting to get your audience to lean in to the topic. A simple tactic is to take a poll so that you and the panelists can focus attention on what really matters to the audience.”
• Make the first question easy, and allow the audience to get to know your panelists.
• When asking a question, direct your attention to the panelist and then look out into the audience (that will encourage the panelist to look at the audience when they respond).
• Advise the audience about social media guidelines and what the hashtags are.
• Encourage the audience to share learnings from the panel on their social channels.
• Project the panel’s contact information, social media profiles, and conference hashtag on the screen for people to easily connect and tag them.
Managing the panel
• Keep questions contextual—don’t let panelists stray.
• Ask them to focus all their responses to benefit the audience.
• Shut down any sales pitches of products and services.
• Provide a variety of good and bad examples and case studies for the audience (don’t just share good news case studies).
• Allow the panel to talk to each other (and over each other a little, but not to be rude).
• Allow debate, not stage hogging.
Managing the audience
• Always repeat the question for the benefit of the audience and the panelists.
• Ask audience members to state their name before they ask their questions.
• Ask audience members to ask questions that the whole room will benefit from.
• Use microphones for all questions.
After the panel
• Share the panelists’ contact information with the audience again.
• Encourage the audience to meet the panelists one on one.
• Send thank you notes to the panelists.
Have you moderated a panel? What are your best practices? For more ideas on how to get (and keep) audience’s attention check out my blog.