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Moderate a Panel Confidently

I was coaching a new panel moderator through an important panel discussion and I commented that she was “being in your head” a bit much. That begs the question, what does “being in your head” look like? Well, it’s hard to describe, but it appeared to me that she was second-guessing herself. Tentatively searching for words while looking up at the ceiling.

Feeling awkward or “being in your head” during a panel discussion is a common concern for many novice moderators. Here are some ideas to help you become more comfortable and confident in your role:

  1. Prepare. Thoroughly prepare for the panel discussion in advance. Research the topic, familiarize yourself with the panelists’ backgrounds and perspectives, and have a solid structure and format. The more prepared you are, the more confident you’ll feel during the actual event.
  2. Practice. Take the time to practice moderating the panel discussion before the actual event. Rehearse your introductions, transitions, and questions. Practice speaking clearly and confidently. Consider recording yourself and reviewing the playback to identify areas for improvement.
  3. Build Rapport. Reach out to the panelists before the panel, introduce yourself, and have a casual conversation to build a connection. Find something that you have in common with each of them. This will help create a more comfortable atmosphere during the panel and make you feel more at ease.
  4. Breath Deep. Practice deep breathing and relaxation techniques to help calm your mind and body. Take slow, deep breaths to center yourself and release tension. This can help alleviate anxiety and promote a more relaxed state.
  5. Listen Actively. Instead of focusing on your performance, actively listen to the panelists’ responses and engage with what they are saying. Shift your attention to understanding and facilitating the conversation rather than worrying about your presence. This will help you stay present and be less self-conscious.
  6. Embrace Imperfection. Remember that being a moderator doesn’t mean being flawless. Embrace the fact that there may be moments of silence, unexpected twists, or small hiccups. Understand that imperfections are normal and can even add authenticity to the discussion. Focus on adapting and keeping the conversation flowing rather than striving for perfection.
  7. Be Yourself. Authenticity is critical to being a successful moderator. Be yourself and let your natural personality shine through. Don’t try to copy someone else’s style or be overly formal if it doesn’t align with your true self. Embracing your authentic self will help you feel more comfortable and relatable to the panelists and audience.
  8. Seek Support from Others. If possible, consider having a co-moderator or a team member assist you during the panel discussion. They can provide support, help with transitions, or manage technical aspects, allowing you to focus more on the conversation and be less overwhelmed.
  9. Debrief. After the panel discussion, take time to reflect on your performance. Identify areas where you felt uncomfortable or awkward and think about how to improve future engagements. Learn from your experiences and use them as opportunities for growth.

Remember, confidence and comfort come with practice and experience. The more panel discussions you moderate, the more comfortable you’ll become. Embrace the learning process, be kind to yourself, and celebrate your successes along the way.

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To order your copy of The Powerful Panelist: Everything You Need to Know to be a Capable and Confident Panelist in a Panel Discussion visit this link.

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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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