Your audience can get really annoyed when the moderator doesn’t manage time well during a panel discussion. All it takes is for the moderator to take a smidge more time with opening remarks, the panelists introductions and/or presentations to go on a little longer, or the panelists to take forever to answer a question, before the panel runs out of time to get to the audience’s questions.
Try these 12 tips to manage the time effectively during a panel discussion:
1. Create a detailed working agenda that includes timeframes around the opening remarks, introductions, presentations, moderator-curated questions, audience Q&A, and closing remarks. Be realistic in your expectations – and write them down.
2. As you “meet up” with the panelists, providing a few quick reminders can be a great prevention strategy.. I also like to hand out a card with the agenda and timeframes.
3. Review the agenda/process and ground rules, and panel format at the beginning of the session. When everybody knows the game plan, people tend to stay focused and on track.
4. Follow the detailed agenda.
5. Start on time and end on time. Seems simple to do, but not so easy. Make every effort to start on time and always end on time, especially if there are subsequent sessions on the program.
6. Keep the clock visible so all can see the time!
7. Encourage panelists to be concise in their comments and to limit their comments to no more than one to two minutes.
8. Share how the Q&A process will go and stick to that process!
9. Use a timer or buzzer to keep everyone and everything on track.
10. Congratulate and affirm a panelist who keeps to the time limit when answering a question.
11. Intervene firmly when a panel or audience member exceeds the time limit.
12. Acknowledge to the panelists and audience when you are running behind. When everyone knows that you are cognizant and watching the clock, they will breathe easier and let you take responsibility for catching up…and ending on time.
To learn more steps to successfully moderate a panel discussion like a pro, try this user-friendly guide.
How and When to Manage Audience Q&A
Panel Moderator Checklist: Meeting with Panelists Prior to Panel Discussions
Panelists and Panel Moderators Should Provide Visual Diversity
Kristin Arnold, professional panel moderator and high stakes meeting facilitator, shares her best practices for interactive, interesting, and engaging panel presentations. For more resources like this, or to have Kristin moderate your next panel visit the Powerful Panels official website.