Never look at the moderator. The moderator is asking the questions, but he is merely a proxy for the audience. When you answer, don’t look at the moderator. Look at the audience because the audience doesn’t want to see the side of your head. (FYI, a good moderator will not make eye contact with you–forcing you to look away from him and look at the audience.) (Someday I may write an entry about how to be a good moderator because most people incorrectly think it’s so easy to be one.)It's a useful frame for both speakers and moderators. The moderator really is the go-between and proxy for the audience; she always has the floor and the mic to go with it. But speakers need to connect directly with the audience. So proxy though the moderator be, cut out the middle man and look at your listeners.
Not making eye contact with speakers makes it even more important for moderators to use my top tip for managing a panel: Say what you want to happen out loud, rather than signaling or hinting or wishing the panelists would do something. You don't need to look at the panelists to do that, but your out-loud directions will certainly accomplish what you need to get done.
(Creative Commons licensed photo by Andy Ihnatko)
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.