Powerful Panel Discussion Tip #228 with Warren Evans: Preparing the Panelists Before the Event

Professional Panel Moderator Kristin Arnold asks Warren Evans, professional speaker, futurist and member of the Canadian Speaker Hall of Fame to share his perspective on how to prepare the panelists before the panel discussion at meetings, conferences, and conventions.

Video Transcript

Kristin: Warren, what do you do to prepare the panelists prior to the date of the event?

Warren: If I get a chance in an email sense, if I’m communicating with the panel beforehand, weeks before, I’ll say, “Let’s try and do this together, have some fun. Let’s have some pointed conversation. Let’s spark some debate. Let’s see if we can’t wander through the lunch crowd and listen to people arguing and debating the kind of stuff that you guys brought up because industry is at a crossroad, this is an unusual opportunity to impact 500 people’s thinking. So let’s all try and bring our best game and think about what we want to say and how we want to put it across.”

Here are my objectives. My objective is to provoke discussion; if that in fact is the purpose of the panel my objective is similar if that, in fact, is the purpose of the panel. Most of the time differing opinions is a good thing. Often I don’t get a chance to do very much of that. I am conscious of the fact when I do, by the nature of the people who are on the panel typically, they are typically the high-powered super busy; they are not reading your nine-page moderator philosophy; they’ll read six lines of an email if the first three grab them. And so part of that is my whole persona attitude, etc. comes through in the email. But I also make sure I set that up pretty much as a conversation of equals.

Because if they don’t see me in that light, then I can’t have the kind of control I want to be able to have. That’s part of what you try and set up. If I get a chance to bump into them at the networking event the night before, and I will seek them out; I will ask to get introduced to them just so we get names with faces and we get to shake hands so when we meet at ten o’clock the next morning off stage, we’re reconnecting not connecting.

And again, I have the advantage usually because they just watched me work for an hour. The other thing subtly that does, and I will tell them whether you plan to come to the opening keynote or not, you may want to catch it because some references are going to come up in the panel. But, they’ve also watched me connect with that audience, and so they know that I know how to make the audience laugh, how to laugh with the audience, how to tease the business.



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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!


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