• Laura Bennett

Panels that WOW – whether you are the organizer or a speaker

Have you ever…

…had a panel moderator who liked the sound of his own voice a little too much?

…sat through a discussion where one of the panelists hogged the stage so other panelists never got to speak?

…watched as the audience wasted time with a bunch of irrelevant questions?

A great panel moderator fixes that!  See the 28 tips below, thanks to MeetingsNet, written by Need James

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But not all moderators are great. You need to focus on finding a moderator who will create the best experience for your audience by educating, entertaining, and interacting with them.

At your next event, implement a BDA (that’s just my way of saying before, during, and after) process, and ask your moderator to consider the following strategies:

Before the panel:

  1. Create bullet points for discussion and share with the panelists.

  2. Organize a conference call so the panelists can connect.

  3. Get photos, social media information, and short biographies of panelists.

  4. Provide three questions to panelists in advance to help them prepare.

  5. Keep those questions contextual so panelists can be flexible in their responses.

  6. Prepare case studies and examples you can add to complement panelist input.

  7. Manage logistics: i.e., make sure everyone has water, individual microphones, and seating, and advise panelists to silence their cellphones.

  8. Determine the social media strategy: What hashtag are you using? Who will manage questions that are tweeted by audience members?

  9. Determine the seating and speaking order; begin with a strong panelist.

During the panel

  1. Kristin Arnold, a Certified Professional Facilitator, says, “Start with something interesting to get your audience to lean in to the topic. A simple tactic is to take a poll so that you and the panelists can focus attention on what really matters to the audience.”

  2. Make the first question easy, and allow the audience to get to know your panelists.

  3. When asking a question, direct your attention to the panelist and then look out into the audience (that will encourage the panelist to look at the audience when they respond).

  4. Advise the audience about social media guidelines and what the hashtags are.

  5. Encourage the audience to share learnings from the panel on their social channels.

  6. Project the panel’s contact information, social media profiles, and conference hashtag on the screen for people to easily connect and tag them.

Managing the panel

  1. Keep questions contextual—don’t let panelists stray.

  2. Ask them to focus all their responses to benefit the audience.

  3. Shut down any sales pitches of products and services.

  4. Provide a variety of good and bad examples and case studies for the audience (don’t just share good news case studies).

  5. Allow the panel to talk to each other (and over each other a little, but not to be rude).

  6. Allow debate, not stage hogging.

Managing the audience

  1. Always repeat the question for the benefit of the audience and the panelists.

  2. Ask audience members to state their name before they ask their questions.

  3. Ask audience members to ask questions that the whole room will benefit from.

  4. Use microphones for all questions.

After the panel

  1. Share the panelists’ contact information with the audience again.

  2. Encourage the audience to meet the panelists one on one.

  3. Send thank you notes to the panelists.

Having just been at a conference that schedules one panel after another, the ones that prepare like recommended above are the ones that WOW the audience, and are memorable.Whenever possible use visuals on dual screens beside the panel stage – tutor your panelists to have slides and images that can be photographed, use large type and have lots of definition.  Please no gray type and gobs of copy – remember if you are wowing the audience they’ll be using their cell phones to photograph these images and posting across the web.Think about what you ask them to wear, seating arrangements, microphone testing, sound levels and signage – all the better for those social media posts that will amplify your message and give you reportable results!


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