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“OMIGOSH!  I knew this was going to happen!”

If you think about it, a good panel moderator can see most of the things that can go wrong during a panel discussion – even before the session starts:

  • A blow-hard panelist who has a tendency to hog the microphone
  • An organization that notoriously starts late, so the schedule gets screwed up
  • Panelists who believe they have to chime in to every single question
  • And the list goes on….

Quite possibly, during your research talking to the meeting organizer and panelists, you were alerted to a few possible detours to a successful panel discussion.

So why not create some “ground rules” to great panels?  These are prevention strategies to keep your worst nightmare from happening – and because you have them in place, you’ll be able to intervene much quicker and more gracefully without looking like a complete jerk.

Here are some typical examples of ground rules for panelists to follow:

  • Be additive. If you agree, say so if you must and move on to a new point.
  • Not everyone needs to answer every question.
  • Keep your answers crisp and concise. Save the long back-story for the bar.
  • Keep it conversational.  Jump in if you have something new to say.
  • One person talks at a time.
  • Generate light and not heat. Let’s have a healthy debate.
  • No shameless promotion.

Disclaimer:  Be advised, these are only examples.  Customize your ground rules to the group you will be facilitating!

You can mention these ground rules during your pre-session conversations, the meet-up right before the session is to start – and even at the beginning of the panel so the audience even knows the ground rules!

BTW, I also use ground rules with the audience during the Q&A.  My favorite is to follow this process: state your question first (incredibly important so you don’t get some long-winded question or rambling statement), whom you want to answer the question (a specific person or anyone) and then one or two sentences for context if absolutely necessary.

What ground rules do you like to use?


If you could benefit from learning more panel moderation techniques, join us for this webinar on “Using Creative Training Techniques to Engage the Audience During a Panel Discussion.”

Related Articles:

How to Keep the Audience Engaged During A Panel with One Simple Trick

Call for a Lightning Round to Add Pizzazz to your Panel Discussion

How to Overcome Deathly Panel Q&A

Kristin Arnold, professional panel moderator and high stakes meeting facilitator, shares her best practices for interactive, interesting, and engaging panel presentations. For more resources like this, or to have Kristin moderate your next panel visit the Powerful Panels official website.

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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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