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The main way to learn how to moderate a panel is to moderate a panel discussion.  Not just one, but many panels – and then critique your panel discussion performance.  Note what works and what doesn’t work. Keep doing what works well and change the things that don’t work as well.

I realize how basic this sounds, but I am continually surprised at how seldom this happens.

So here’s what typically happens. You moderate the panel and then dash off to the next assignment. While you are driving, you think about what worked well and what you would do next time. And you think you will remember your observations. But you don’t moderate another panel for another few weeks (or months), and when it rolls around, you have forgotten all the things you wanted to do differently the next time.

If you really want to improve your panel moderation skills, critique the panel discussion and your performance.

How to Critique the Panel Discussion:

  1. Reflect.  As soon as possible after the panel, take a moment to reflect on what went well and what did not go so well. Review your working agenda and note where you followed the agenda and where you deviated.
  2. Analyze.  Ask yourself these two questions: “Why did that technique work?” “Why didn’t that activity work as well as I thought it would?” Your answers could be a host of causes ranging from technique selection and your comfort level to the actual content and the audience’s personality.
  3. Upgrade.  How would you improve the panel the next time? Write down specifics about how you would change it.
  4. One Thing.  Close to the bottom of the working agenda, draw a red line across the page. Write down the one thing you learned through this critique process. It could be something you want to reinforce or change for the next time.
  5. Rate Yourself. Give yourself a realistic grade on a scale of 1 to 5 (with 1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest) for the overall panel as well as each category technique. Any grade below a 5 is an opportunity for improvement.
  6. File.  Place your annotated working agenda in a “continuous improvement” binder or digital file folder.  Periodically, you can flip through the binder to see themes, patterns, and trends as well as specific improvements for your next panel.

Related Articles:

How to Organize a Panel Discussion

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

For more information about how to moderate a lively & informative panel discussion, check out our free 7-part video series or our other resources to help you organize, moderate, or be a panel member.

Photo by Surface on Unsplash

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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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