COVID Questions to Ask Before You Agree to Moderate a Panel Discussion

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I was recently asked to moderate a live, face-to-face panel.  After my initial shock (what? Live?  Do you not know that the COVID-19 virus is still running rampant in North America?), I discovered the group will be less than 50 people. 

Technically, that made it “legal” for the location, but it didn’t allay my concerns one bit.  So I asked a few more questions to ensure safety protocols were in place:

  • How many people will be in attendance?
  • What is the square footage of the room?
  • What is the height of the ceiling?
  • Does the room have doors and/or windows to the outside, and if so, will those be opened?
  • How often is the air in the room completely recirculated by your HVAC system (2 hours max)?
  • Does your HVAC system use UV as part of its filtration?
  • How distant will attendees be from each other?
  • How distant will the first row of attendees be from me and the panelists?
  • How distant will the panelists be from each other?
  • What will the a/v do to support me and the panelists to be heard in the room?
  • Will all participants have their temperatures taken before entering the building?
  • Are masks required at all times for all participants?
  • Will there be plastic face shields for me and the panelists?
  • Will the participants be eating before or during the panel discussion?
  • Will the room be in use before the panel discussion?
  • How long will the room be vacant before the panel discussion?
  • What cleaning will be done between the last group and the panel discussion?
  • If the panel discussion is more than one hour, can I require a break or organize small group work outside or in another space?
  • I will wear a mask when not actively moderating. Is this acceptable to you? If not, I will wear a mask the entire time.

As we move back into the live and/or virtual world, make sure you ask these questions to ensure your safety as well as the safety of your panelists and audience before you agree to moderate a panel discussion.

Get your agreement in writing (just an email summarizing what they will do is enough) and then be prepared for what you will do if the client does not have these agreements in place.  (I intend to have disposable face masks in my car – just in case!).

Yes, I am probably being overcautious, but I would absolutely dread the call that confirmed a COVID-19 outbreak occurred during my panel discussion!

A big thank you to Rita Risser Chai for prompting me to ask these questions!


For more resources on moderating panel discussions, visit the Knowledge Vault. To have Kristin moderate your next panel, visit the Powerful Panels official website.

Related Articles:

How to Moderate a Virtual Panel Discussion

How to Create GREAT Questions for Your Panelists to Answer during Your Panel Discussion

Panel Discussion Tip #185 with Jeffrey Hayzlett: Finishing Panel Discussions


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Kristin ArnoldKristin Arnold
KRISTIN ARNOLD, MBA, CSP, CPF|Master has been facilitating meaningful conversations between executives and managers to make better decisions and achieve extraordinary results for 25+ years. She's a leading authority on moderating panel discussions and passionate about finding the perfect olive to complement a vodka martini.
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