What makes for a good panel moderator?

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This topic contains 17 replies, has 10 voices, and was last updated by  Ed Albetski 8 years, 8 months ago.

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  • #95975

    Tom Vannoy

    Need some help from the govloop community. So many of us attend conferences, present at conferences, moderate panels, etc. I figure this is the place to go for advice. I did a search on govloop and came up empty so figured I’d start a discussion.

    I am likely going to be moderating 3-4 panel discussion at a senior managers conference coming up in a month or so. I have moderated a few panels before, however it is definitely not something I would classify as a strength and I would rather not embarass myself in front of all my peers.

    So, to the question, what makes a good panel moderator in your view?

    Thanks in advance for your help!

    PS – in the elevator the other day sporting my govloop lanyard and an employee gets on and says ‘Innovation is alive? Where?” I turned to them and said “It’s everywhere, you just have to look.”

  • #96009

    Ed Albetski

    I have participated in panels and have “headed” them. Moderating is a little different.

    1. The moderator should not have “a dog in this fight”. If he has an opinion about the subject matter, the audience should not be able to tell. Folks are attending to hear the panelists, not the moderator. This can be hard.

    2. The moderator has to politely keep the discussion from wandering off topic.

    3. And insure that each panel member gets to speak on all topics with roughly equal time. Some folks can say a lot in a few words, others can ramble on for hours and say nothing. Everyone should at least have the same opportunity. You have to be brave and cut folks off sometime to hear from someone else.

    Good luck!

  • #96007

    Steve Ressler

    I think the #1 key is to make it fun. #2 – a good moderator cuts people off when talking too long – a bad moderator is too shy.

  • #96005

    Tom Vannoy

    Thanks Ed! I struggle sometimes on #1 particularly when it comes to Enterprise 2.0 which will be one of the topics. I will write that down and keep it in front of me! I appreciate your feedback.

  • #96003

    Tom Vannoy

    Thanks Steve – I think that will be my biggest struggle of all. I think I’m going to channel my inner Yoda to help with that. btw, thanks for the tweet.

  • #96001

    Sandy Ressler

    Timekeeper, timekeeper, timekeeper
    Panelists often have a tendency to drone on and on and there is nothing worse then a panelist who dominates the rest of the participants. Come prepared with a friendly, red card, or a little white flag…something you can wave to (in a friendly way) make the strong point that time is up. If they resist, just cut em off…you can do that without being rude just make some wisecrack…done it many times 😉
    Good luck and have fun!

  • #95999

    Tom Vannoy

    Sandy – thanks for the tip. I’ll bring a time prop with me. Great idea!

    Does the light saber app on the iPhone count as an obnoxious time prop? 🙂

  • #95997

    Adriel Hampton

    #2 – That especially goes if you take audience questions.

  • #95995

    Dick Davies

    First job of the moderator is to make everyone glad they are attending and looking forward to the proceedings. So first, bring some energy. Best one I ever saw was Clayton Christensen at American Enterprise Institute. In a couple of minutes we all knew he was REALLY glad we were there with him.
    Second, if you can make a key distinction that makes the discussion fresh, new and more important, you are “teeing up” the subsequent speakers.
    Third, protect your speakers. Questions coming from the audience are often not questions, and when someone feels the urge and right to vent, the target and the audience can’t do much. The moderator has to rip the proceedings back on track. Make it very clear you are there to honor the intention of the proceeding, which is why your audience came.

  • #95993

    Steve Radick

    As someone who’s moderated a few of these, I can tell you that the absolute best advice I could give has already been given. By Jeremiah Owyang. Check out his fantastic post here – “How to Successfully Moderate a Conference Panel, A Comprehensive Guide.”

  • #95991

    Bill Bott

    I always appreciate moderators who know enough about the speakers and topics to make sue we don’t get the sunshine and flowers treatment… a good moderator forces the speakers to discuss the stories behind the stories – expose some of the less flattering subjects without being disrespectful to the panel.

    Know the topic… call the speakers ahead of time… it helps

  • #95989

    Tom Vannoy

    Thanks for the reference!!

  • #95987

    Tom Vannoy

    Thanks for the response Dick. I’m concerned about the third in particular due to some of what is going on at the bureau so I appreciate the input.

  • #95985

    Tom Vannoy

    Thanks Bill, I will do that.

  • #95983

    Bill Balko

    Tom – I am working on some resources for on being a moderator. But your PS really interested me ‘Innovation is alive? Where?” As you said many of us move around and talk to many people. I work with a great bunch of folks who are “into” their jobs and live innovation. But when I leave my bubble I find that many of the folks outside of my bubble of innovators, those who are inking through their daily jobs look at innovation as a bad word. Often I am told that they have to much to do to have to learn to use another application or a “new” way of doing “business”. Just something to think about.

  • #95981

    Tom Vannoy

    I agree, that’s where I ended up as well after I thought about the elevator comment over the following two days. Funny how a small comment by someone can stimulate so much thought over the following days…Included in that was some inner dialogue about how I should have been better prepared to answer just that question and use it as an opportunity to try and stimulate innovation outside of my bubble.

    Great thought! Thanks for sharing.

  • #95979

    Daniel Pullium

    Be on time (beginning and ending). Be fair. Be prepared.

    I prepare them (and myself) a week or so before the panel. If possible, I put all of them on a conference call to discuss the panel…this is extrememly important if you work in a fast-paced environment where things change rapidly. It also helps me as a moderator to know all of the latest issues regarding the topic panel that have come out in recent weeks.

    Our team prepares a written document for all of the panelists expalining the rules of engagement for the panel. Each moderator is also given a protocol worksheet. This allows the moderator to establish boundaries and adhere to the “rules” during the panel.

  • #95977

    Tom Vannoy

    Thanks for the insight. Do you have an example of rules of engagement and protocol worksheet? I like that idea.
    Thanks again,

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