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I get disappointed when a moderator selects a more traditional “initial remarks” format. Why? Because they do two things that drive me nuts:


1) They allow each panelist to introduce themselves and/or

2) They let each panelist pontificate for their designated time (or longer!).

After three or four (or more, oh my!) panelists provide their initial remarks, half the time is gone and it feels like the panel has to reboot for the moderator to ask questions to the entire panel.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

My favorite technique for this type of format is to meld all these tasks together to form a strand of ideas that can carry forth through the panel discussion. After your opening comment, introduce the first panelist with a few sentences about the reasons why that particular panelist is on the program. (After all, their bios and credentials are in the marketing materials, displayed on a slide for all, or can be Googled by a curious audience member). Launch into a particular question for that specific panelist that tees up the topic. Allow the panelist to answer the question – and remind them of how much time they have for their initial remarks.

Do the same thing with Panelist #2 – Quick introduction and their question builds on question #1…and so on. Think of the questions as an overarching arc – a strand of pearls on a necklace that provides a cohesive story for the audience.

Let the panelists know their starting question, the order that they will be in, and how much time they have to provide their “initial remarks.” The panelists may even have some ideas on how to make your moderator-curated questions even better!

BTW – rather than have all of the panelists on stage from the onset, you may want to invite the panelists to join the physical or virtual stage when you introduce them. I find this is a matter of personal preference, the topic, and the length of time for the initial remarks.

Once you have finished the panel discussion’s “initial remarks,” you’ll have plenty of opportunities to build on and expand what has been said into a lively and interesting conversation!

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

How to Structure a Panel Discussion

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 Tiffany Anthony 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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