Tip number 15 for moderating panel discussions

December 16, 2014 | Presentations, Verbal communication

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

Encourage panelist to jump into the discussion without being questioned or prompted.

Think about the best panel discussions you have ever witnessed. They were probably the most vigorous and interactive discussions. Unfortunately, most panel discussions are made sleepy by passive panelists and a moderator who doesn’t spark freewheeling discussion.

For starters, if you get to select your own panelists, choose people who are comfortable mixing it up, rather than people who are passive and only speak when spoken to. Secondly, do some advance work with your panelists by making it clear that they have permission to speak without being prompted. Encourage them to speak in response to what other panelists, or you as moderator, are saying.

The best panel discussions take on a life of their own and don’t require constant stoking from the moderator. But this doesn’t happen by accident. It takes of moderator who selects thoughtful, assertive and extroverted panelists. And it takes a moderator who sets expectations in advance and gives his or her panelists permission to speak when the discussion moves them.

A good moderator helps instigate a robust conversation by knowing his panelists’ perspectives in advance of the discussion, and then cross-references countervailing perspectives to prompt exuberant discussion.

The objective is not to instigate an argument, it’s to make sure that panelists fully express their points of view and stress-test one another’s thinking.

That is what a fully realized discussion is all about.

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. Tip number eight: Take an opportunity to build on your panelists’ answers by offering your own observations or examples, click here.
  9. Tip number nine: Look for opportunities to involve the audience, click here.
  10. Tip number 10: When appropriate, take hand-held microphone into the audience and turn the discussion into a talk-show format with audience involvement from start to finish, click here.
  11. Tip number 11: Gently challenge panelists when their answers are of questionable accuracy or candor, click here.
  12. Tip number 12: Take command of the lectern, click here.
  13. Tip number 13: Liven-up your language by punctuating or emphasizing certain words and phrases, click here.
  14. Tip number 14: Incorporate some physical movement to your stagecraft, click here.

  15. 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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