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28 Ways a Moderator Can Make Your Panel Shine

How to train your panel moderator to get (and keep) your audience’s attention.

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.

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