• Helen

The Perfect Panel Moderator

Updated: Jun 21

We've all been there. The moderator who

  • asks the same question to all five speakers.

  • throws a question in the air without directing it to anyone in particular.

  • is half asleep

  • has their questions on a tiny scrap of paper

Death by dull panel is one of the most boring ways to go. Moderators, let's fix that. Here's how to avoid putting an entire hall to sleep.


Firstly, Lord save us from a moderator who reads an entire bio before each speaker. (If you'd like to learn more about how to do that well, look here: https://www.linkedin.com/posts/helen-gottstein-loudandclear_event-communication-publicspeaking-activity-6806107715195211776-GQ-s)


Your preparation can make or break the arc of a session. Here's the inside word:


1. Invest time, thought and research into preparing smart questions.


2. Share the questions with the panelists in advance - and ask them if there is something they would like to be asked about. Do not skip this. This is one of the most fundamental responsibilities of a moderator and is central to treating panelists with the respect they deserve.


3. Ensure your questions differentiate between the different spheres of expertise your panelists represent. Again, "What do you all think about X?" is sooooo not the way to go.


4. Take care of your panelists. When you are live, your job is to have their backs. That can mean protecting them from each other, especially in panels of contrasting viewpoints or, something I have found myself doing, is covering for a panelist when they were confused for a moment.


5. Model attentive, warm behavior for the audience and the other panelists. Live, this means to turn your body towards them. Online, this means to bring that energy to the camera.


6. Listen well - draw value from a speaker's material in your transitions and in your summary.


7. Thank them!


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