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Today’s guest blog is brought to you by  Jan-Jaap In der Maur. Jan-Jaap is a meeting-moderator and facilitator, owner and founder of, and a keynote speaker on the subject of interaction and moderation.

Imagine this: You have been asked to moderate a panel discussion with 6 panelists.  The topic is “How Agencies and Clients Should Cooperate,” with two event agencies and four corporate clients on stage.  An additional complicating factor is that the panel also serves two fairly different markets: the Baltics and the Nordics.

Now, I have a clear idea on what a great panel looks like, but there are times when you are asked to moderate a panel that seems destined to crash and burn. In that case, you have two options:

  1. Say “No” to the assignment or
  2. Make it work anyway.

In this case, I choose the latter!

So, I started talking to all panel-members, in order to find topics and discuss roles.  When I was talking with one of the panelists, Janne Björge (always give credit to those who deserve them!), it sparked the solution.  He suggested we stay away from stuff that sets agencies and clients apart and look into what unites us.  He said, “Let’s make this a happy-happy show.”  That’s when I decided to turn this panel into a dating show-game-competition event!

So here’s what I did:

On stage, I split the panel in two teams: The Baltics and the Nordics. Both teams had one event agency and two corporate clients.

I took the 5 topics, (identified during my conversations with the panelists) and turned each into a provocative question.

I asked the first topical question to two teams and to the audience.  Both teams got one minute to come up with a combined agency-client vision. While they were discussing the question, the audience did the same.

After one minute of discussion, each team had one minute to present their answer to the question.  Then the audience decided which team had the best “happy-happy” answer (where both agencies and clients are happy) using the tool.  For instance: Team Nordics scored 83% on their presentation to the question “How will the relationship change over the next 5 years?”

After the voting percentages were revealed, we took 5-10 minutes to discuss the topic in depth. There, we found room for nuance, exploring options etc.  Both teams and participants were involved in this conversation.

We continued the process for the other four questions and then the percentages of all rounds were added up into a grand total.  So who won this competition?  Team Nordics won by an inch with panelist Janne Björge doing a victory dance, raising his arms, jumping around, and shouting “yes. Yes! YES!!!” like he just won the World Cup!

All in all, this format had everything for this occasion:

  • It was dynamic and everyone had fun.
  • All the panelists were involved, even though there were six of them.
  • The participants felt very engaged.
  • Turning it into a competition challenged all panelists to strive for their best answer.
  • The content shared was unique and collaborative.
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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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