Tip number eight for moderating panel discussions

This is the eighth of an intermittent series of 15 tips for successfully moderating a panel discussion.

Take an opportunity to build on your panelists’ answers by offering your own observations or examples. This makes you a bigger part of the discussion, rather than just a person who asks questions. It also builds rapport with your panelists.

This requires, of course, that you are conversant with the subject being discussed, which is usually the case for moderators. Most people are asked to be moderators because they have some facility — or even expertise — with the subject matter that makes them especially capable of devising and developing questions for the panel. That same knowledge and experience puts the moderator in a position to expand on panelists’ answers.

Naturally, it is not a good idea to offer one’s observations repeatedly. That can get annoying and even make the moderator look as though he or she is grandstanding. A moderator can also be made to look ridiculous if straining to weigh-in on topics with observations that add no real value. And that is the calculation we should make: Can I add value to the panelist’s answer by giving the audience additional information or an example that builds on what my panelist has just offered? If the answer is no, we should move on. If the answer is yes, we should feel free to speak up.

Great interviewers find these opportunities, just as they find opportunities to ask meaningful follow-up questions that more fully develop the discussion. But they are wise enough to do so only when it makes sense — and to be succinct with their observations.

Previously published tips for successfully moderating panel discussions:

  1. Tip number one: Talk to the audience, not just the panelists, click here.
  2. Tip number two: Throw some “jump balls” while questioning panelists, click here.
  3. Tip number three: Speak loudly enough to fill the room with your voice, click here.
  4. Tip number four: Introduce your panelists with flourish, click here.
  5. Tip number five: Keep the microphone in front of your mouth when speaking — including while swiveling your head to make eye contact with audience members. click here.
  6. Tip number six: Use occasional examples and anecdotes when asking questions, click here.
  7. Tip number seven: Ask follow-up questions, click here.

  8. Mike Consol teaches public speaking, PowerPoint presentation skills and business writing to companies and business professionals in the Oakland-San Francisco-San Jose Bay Area. Contact him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 925-449-1040.

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