Tuesday, January 24, 2017

3 things conference organizers wish moderators knew about better panels

I've shared 3 things moderators wish conference organizers knew about better panels. Now the shoe's on the other foot. Here are 3 things your conference's organizer is hoping you'll realize before the panel moderation begins:
  1. Enforced start and end times matter:  Starting and ending on time, so often fudged by speakers and moderators, is a must to the conference organizer. She knows that a late-starting or -ending panel results in grumpy attendees--made late, or made to wait--and bad reviews. Be sure your eye is on the clock. I find it helps if the moderator announces a commitment to starting and ending on time right at the beginning, and asks the audience and the speakers--out loud--to help her keep that schedule.
  2. They need you to clear the room at the end: Hand in hand with a panel that ends on time is a set of ground rules, announced at the start by the moderator, that help attendees and panelists leave the room promptly. Moderators can help conference organizers keep things moving by agreeing with panelists on a meetup spot *outside* the meeting room--the coffee break area, for example--then directing attendees to follow-up with speakers there. "If you have more to say to one of our speakers, they all will be in the coffee area right after this panel, so meet them there," is all it takes.
  3. They want you to allow plenty of time for questions: Nothing gets the audience more angry (and likely to take it out on the conference) than a lack of time for its questions. My own rule of thumb is 50 percent time for the panel, and 50 percent time for questions. Don't give the audience five or 10 minutes at the end of an hour and expect loving reviews.
(Creative Commons licensed photo by Simon James)

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.