- Meet the panelists: Make sure they know you're the moderator, and chat with them if you don't already know them (and even if you do). Has anything changed about their presentations or expectations? Is this a special day for one of them? Do they have last-minute concerns? You won't know unless you ask. Make sure it's clear to the panelists that you're in charge, and that you intend to moderate them fairly and on time.
- Find out what's missing: Did anyone leave their bio, slides, or technology at home? Are all the speakers there? Did someone fail to provide all the audio-visual equipment requested? Did someone show up with 3 videos when there's no way to project them? Doing this check even 15 minutes before the panel gives you the chance to fix or fill the missing gap--or figure out a workaround. Don't fail to say, "We didn't plan on showing videos, so we won't be able to use them. Can you speak about them instead?"
- Make friends with the support team: Whether it's a group of volunteer amateurs or a professional sound and video crew and housekeeping department, find and introduce yourself to the people to whom you can turn in an emergency, from microphones that don't work to coffee cups that need to be cleared out of the panel's way.
- Review the bios: Scan your introductory material one more time before the panel begins. Did you learn anything in chatting with the speakers that will make the intros better?
- Watch the clock: Moderators need to be a step ahead. Leave a previous session early if you need to, or finish your lunch faster than the group.
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.