A client recently asked me, “As the panel moderator and expert on the topic, is it ever appropriate for me to weigh in on my ideas or opinions?”
It’s a good question as the moderator is supposed to facilitate the conversation and not participate (i.e. add to the content) in the conversation.
That being said, yes, there are some unique instances where the panel moderator should dip their toe into the content to get the conversation on track and back on track. Once a contribution is made, then the moderator should resume the role of facilitator.
What is NOT on this list is when a panelist says something that is absolutely, completely, categorically WRONG! Shouldn’t you be able to intervene and declare the truth of the matter? After all, you were selected to moderate the panel because of your knowledge.
And therein lies the rub. Yes, you were selected because of your ability to navigate your way around the topic, but your primary job is to facilitate a conversation among the panelists. If you feel like you need to contribute to the topic, then you should be a panelist and not the moderator!
The truth of the matter is that “no,” you should NOT weigh in when a panelist says something stupid, insipid, or insane.
Panel moderator Cassie Kozyrokov agrees: “Sometimes, you’ll have a panelist say something that you think is bonkers and there’s no way you’ll let it go…but, alas, you must. If you were a panelist, you’d totally jump in and offer a lengthy perspective (until the moderator cuts you off that is). But you’re not a panelist. What to do? If you have some agency in selecting your panelists, a good idea is to pick a champion: someone who shares your opinions. You can call on them to hold forth on your behalf.”
For more information about how to moderate a lively & informative panel discussion, check out our free 7-part video series on how to moderate a panel and other resources to help you organize, moderate, or be a panel member.