Tuesday, June 23, 2015

How to moderate panels to delight & surprise your audience

A great panel shouldn't be so surprising. But because so many speakers and organizers fail to prepare for delighting the audience, the truly delightful panels are few and far between. Far more common are panels that use up the listeners' goodwill and then some. Fortunately, planning a great panel and pulling it off is well within reach--just four basic factors will get you there, with the bonus that its rarity means yours will be a real standout. Here's how:
  1. Ban the bio-reading:  Use creative tactics for introducing your speakers, and forbid the reading of bios. Read Toward better panel introductions to guide you.
  2. Watch the clock: By that, I mean start and end on time. Don't say to speakers, "Just take 5 to 10 minutes." Is it 5 or is it 10? That can mean the difference between an on-time performance and an over-long panel. While you're at it, make sure that, as moderator, you don't let one speaker run on, leaving the others to rush through their remarks...or go overtime. State out loud your expectation to start and end on time, and ask the speakers in front of the audience to help you do that.
  3. Prefer the audience's speaking time: Audience members will always ask the best questions and the questions you couldn't possibly anticipate--and no mistake, the audience came to play. So make sure to give them time to speak and ask questions. Want to really delight them? Let audience questions open the session.
  4. Focus and limit: Inviting too many speakers is the surest way to disappoint your audience, since it means neither speakers nor listeners will have enough time. Got too many great folks? Figure out how to make two panels, do part 1 and part 2 panels, or just get choosy. Yes, you can. While you're at it, consider omitting slides entirely--another great way to focus and limit a panel.
Need more coaching on how to be a better panel moderator? Order the new ebook The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels. At just $3.99 and available in many formats, it's a great back-pocket coach to take on stage with you in your smartphone or tablet. Find more tips on public speaking on The Eloquent Woman blog.