In How moderating focus groups made me a better manager, Brooke Niemiec points to what managers can learn from focus groups, but panel moderators can take the lessons, too. Here's what she advises:
- Don't skip the warm-up: "Good focus groups usually start with an icebreaker to let members learn more about one another. The activities and topics involved are safe, and they're meant to knock down some of the barriers between people," Niemic writes. That might include a humorous intro, a quick activity for the audience or the panelists, or fun instructions for the duration of the panel.
- Let them do the talking: "Moderators listen during focus groups a good 90% of the time, asking broad questions to guide the conversation and probing questions to clarify details that are unclear," Niemic notes. The same is absolutely true for panel moderators.
- Ask, don't tell: I love this bit of advice for panel moderators: "Good moderators avoid stating ideas directly—'You said that the new call center process was confusing'—or 'leading the witness:' 'I’m going to show you this amazingly awesome new call center process.' Instead, they ask participants to state things in their own words. And when asked a question, moderators often answer, 'What do you think'?" That goes equally well whether the moderator gets a question from the panelists or the audience members.
- Hear from everybody: "Moderators always need to make sure to get feedback from everyone in the room, not just the loudest person." That's also a critical skill for panel moderators, relevant to panelists and to audience members. Both groups count on the moderator to keep some balance.
- Keep everyone honest: Here's a great piece of advice for how panel moderators can set the tone: "You also need to cultivate an environment that encourages all types of sharing." Announcing that intention and enforcing it in real time will go a long way to enliven the discussion with many viewpoints
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.