Professional Panel Moderator Kristin Arnold asks Glenn Thayer, Master of Ceremonies and conference moderator to share his strategies on how he keeps the conversation on track during a panel discussion at meetings, conferences and conventions.
Kristin: Glenn, how do you make sure the conversation stays on track?
Glenn: Really, it’s in the preparation. It’s finding out what topics are taboos. Like if the conversation goes here, I use a lot of scenarios with the meeting owner and mainly it’s the conversations with them. Saying, okay, if it goes here, where do we want to go? How is it going to benefit the audience if somebody derails the conversation, where should we go? It’s very easy.
I like to get an agreement I guess before we even talk about that. I like to get agreement amongst the panelists that if there’s a lot debate going on, that we have agreement and there’s respect. If something is going off course, or somebody is not letting the other person talk, that we have an agreement. It’s like, “Okay, that we had the agreement before we stepped on stage that you’d let the other person talk, fully finished their thought before you came back at em’.”
And basically we set up a series of agreements beforehand so we get on stage and if somebody violates one of those agreements, I can cut them off right mid-sentence and say, “Okay, you agreed to this. This is what our agreement was. You’re not honoring that agreement and you’re pulling the integrity of the panel discussion off course so can we please bring that back?” And I’ve only had to do it once.
Because usually they go “Oh, he will pull that card if he has to.” And I believe I saw it, I want to say it was the 2008 election, when there was a debate going on. I want to say it was Brian Williams and the presidential debate was happening and they started going off, they were going off on each other and they were going off on tangents and interrupting and Brian Williams stopped them and said, “Gentlemen, may I remind you that we have these agreements. This is the agreement that we had and the integrity of this debate is being diminished. Can we bring it back on track?” And they said, “Yes,” and it goes back right on track.
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Kristin Arnold, professional panel moderator, and high stakes meeting facilitator is on a crusade to make all panel discussions informative, interactive, and interesting. Specifically, she wants to help YOU become a better panel moderator. Why? Because 95% of annual meetings have panel discussions – and according to the 2014 Panel Report, it’s a fifty-fifty proposition they are any good at all! Expectations decrease dramatically when your attendees walk in and see the traditional draped head-table with microphones on short stands. There are sooooo many other ways to have a stimulating conversation! So let’s increase the probability of success for your next panel discussion with these resources.
And, you can always go back to the playlist for more Powerful Panel Discussion Tips!