During one of my coaching sessions with a panel moderator, my client asked, “Can you plan too much for a panel discussion? Seems like there is a lot to do here!”
Fair question. For a novice panel moderator that is true. As you get more comfortable with the role, there is still a bit of prep work, but not as extensive.
So my answer is, “Yes, you can plan too much for a panel discussion”, but that rarely happens! Even it if it does, it is far better to plan more than you need and dial it back than come in flat-footed and ill-prepared.
Even when you “over-prepare”, you have done so much work that you are comfortable with the topic, the process, the panelists, and even who will be in the audience. With that confidence, you can be genuinely fully present in the moment, facilitating a spontaneous and lively discussion among the panelists and with the audience.
The real issue question with over-preparing is the panel moderator’s ability to dial it back. They have done a ton of work and may want to stick to the structure and outline and be unwilling to let it go. As long as the conversation contributes to the panel’s promise, there is an interesting and lively discussion where the audience is leaning in to listen, let it go. Let your facilitation skills work their magic!
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.