As a panel discussion expert, I am always on the lookout for new ideas, formats, and styles. So I’ve set up some Google Alerts to let me know when there is a blog post or video that includes “panel discussion,” “panel moderator” or “panelist.” And I read and watch them ALL. I know, you’re thinking, “isn’t that a bit obsessive?”
Yep. But if you want to know everything that is going on in your “space,” then that’s what you gotta do.
So when a client asked me to critique some of her organization’s panel discussions, I have a pretty good sense of what a typical panel discussion looks like….the good, the bad and the ugly.
My biggest piece of feedback for this one client?
Tell your panel moderators to be interested in the topic and what the panelists are saying. All too often, the moderators were looking down at their notes, making sure that all their questions are being asked and answered. It’s patently obvious they aren’t listening. And then when they subconsciously rub their face, pinch their nose, roll their eyeballs, we KNOW that the moderator is not listening. If the panel moderator isn’t interested in the conversation, why should the audience care?
Yes, it’s a delicate balance between actively listening and keeping in mind the sequencing of the questions. What happens is that when they are concentrating, their facial expressions turn neutral and they tune out for a moment (or longer). To compound the effect, the topics were substantial in nature – not a whole lot of room for fun and frivolity. But that shouldn’t keep the moderator from being interested and engaged in the process.
My favorite role models are talk show hosts and media interviewers. The hosts aren’t constantly gazing at their notes. No! They are having a fabulous, interesting and intriguing conversation with their guests. They are fully present to “be” with their guests, asking probing questions and having a bit of fun along the way.
So next time you are moderating a panel discussion, don’t forget to tell your face to smile!
For more resources on how to make meetings, panels, and room sets better, make sure to check out this knowledge vault which is chock-full of customizable checklists, worksheets, templates, agendas, sample emails, video interviews and webinars with industry icons and professional moderators.
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