Blogs  / November 13, 2014

How to moderate a panel like a PRoooohhh

by Rebekah Iliff

Ahhhh conference season. My favorite time of year.

Suitcase? Check.

Emergen-c? Check.

Extra phone charger. Check.

Priority boarding access? Notsomuch. But hey, we’re on a budget.

From New York to San Francisco – and any city in between with a conference center that holds approximately 5,000 people and sets its base temperature to 61.4 degrees – lanyards and media rooms and shoddy wifi unite to serve up new products, industry trends, and cocktail hours to those in the know.

Or at least to those trying to get there.

As a regular conference goer, typically under the auspices of media-speaker-moderator (sometimes I even pretend I’m part of the catering team just to change it up), I always like to brush up on my skillzzz prior to embarking on these journeys then reflect back on what I could have done better.

PR experts panelThis year was more of a “moderator” year, so I became personally fixated with how to up my game. In light of that, I surveyed a few super smart folks who are moderating pros, and came up with a listicle of things you can pass along to your unsuspecting clients (be gentle) or can implement yourself if that tickles your fancy.


Porter Gale says…

#1 – Over prepare. Know everything you can about your subject and the topic. Make sure you have some fun facts that demonstrate the depth of your knowledge (e.g. past career moves, personal stories, quotes from PPTs or articles they’ve written).

#2 – Don’t interrupt your subject but know how to thoughtfully move to a new subject if needed.

#3 – Meet as many people in the audience as you can prior to the panel and include their stories or comment about their business in the dialog.

Dippak Khurana says… {he is the Co-founder and CEO of Vserv)

#4Do your best to avoid bias during the discussion. It should not favor any one particular speaker’s point of view over another, and the moderator should ensure that the conversation is balanced.

#5 – It is important to entertain, enrich and thereby engage your audience by breaking conventional conversations and pushing the panel members to come up with interesting content. Creating controversy makes it altogether more interesting and lively…and will keep your audience talking far beyond the panel.

Rebecca Lieb says…

#6 – Don’t break your neck getting everyone on an advance call. It’s like herding cats. Solicit input on the topic from people individually, and then send a bulletin to the entire group on the topics and questions you’ll cover.

#7 – Stay. On. Time. That’s the moderator’s job – pay attention to the clock!

#8 – Know how to cut someone off, definitively but politely. Eventually, someone on a panel you moderate is going to develop a serious case of motor mouth. Your job is to save the conversation for the panel, the audience, and maintain the dignity of the unfortunate one who is rabbiting on.

Shonali Burke says…

#9 – If you’re creating slides, encourage your panelists to keep them as visual as possible. We’ve all heard enough stories of “death by PowerPoint.” While to date I have not heard of PowerPoint being arrested on criminal charges, you get the point.

#10 – You want to make sure your panelists are really comfortable. So, in addition to making sure you know what they are speaking to, also find out if there are issues they are not comfortable addressing. This might sound like overkill, but it’s really not.

With those 10 things in mind, happy moderating! Let us know if you have any other tips @Onclusive.