Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Panel moderators, channel Sheryl Crow and ask for "My favorite mistake"

Sheryl Crow's My Favorite Mistake isn't just one of my favorite songs. It's among my favorite themes when I'm moderating a panel of speakers at a conference or meeting.

Just to be clear, I have an important rule for asking a panel of speakers to disclose their favorite mistakes: The mistake must be one of your own doing--no taking potshots at others' mistakes, just your own. And the more important the panel, the better. I moderated a group of public relations women who--along with me--had won Washington Women in Public Relations's "Washington PR Woman of the Year" award on this very theme, and the session was a smash hit. There's nothing as electric as listening to a group of speakers who have hit their professional stride describe the boulders they threw in their own paths.

If you are the moderator, here are a few more considerations to keep in mind with this provocative theme. You may wish to limit social media posts during such a session, to further encourage the panel's frankness. Get yourself and the panel ready for equally open questions from the audience--once the panel opens up, you can expect the audience to do the same. And certainly, the moderator should discuss the topic with each panelist individually, or with the entire panel as a group, so there are no surprises. This isn't a topic to pull out at the last moment with no notice, and you'll get better answers if you let the panel get used to the idea ahead of time.

You'll find many more panel themes and creative lines of questioning for panels in my ebook on moderating, at the link below. Start thinking about your own favorite mistake if you're going to moderate such a panel. It makes a great statement if the moderator is as willing as the panelists are to disclose that mistake!

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Cliff)

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.