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:
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