Your audience can get really annoyed when the moderator doesn’t manage time well during a panel discussion. All it takes is for the moderator to take a smidge more time with opening remarks, the panelists introductions and/or presentations to go on a little longer, or the panelists to take forever to answer a question, before the panel runs out of time to get to the audience’s questions.
1. Start on time and end on time. Seems simple to do, but not so easy. Make every effort to start on time and always end on time, especially if there are subsequent sessions on the program. Try keeping a clock visible so everyone can see the time!
2. Create a detailed working agenda that includes timeframes around the opening remarks, introductions, presentations, moderator-curated questions, audience Q&A and closing remarks. Be realistic in your expectations – and write them down.
3. Alert the panelists to the panel format, agenda and ground rules during the preparation phase. Encourage them to be concise in their comments and to limit their comments to no more than one to two minutes. They probably won’t remember what you have said, so follow up with an email to confirm the details.
4. Remind the panelists of the timeframes and ground rules right before the session. As you “meet up” with the panelists, a few quick reminders are great prevention strategies. I also like to hand out a card with the agenda and timeframes.
5. Review the agenda/process and ground rules at the beginning of the session. When everybody knows the game plan, people tend to stay focused and on track.
6. Follow the detailed agenda.
7. Review the time limits to speak before the panelist answers the question – especially with those who can tend to babble on.
8. Congratulate and affirm a panelist who keeps to the time limit when answering a question.
9. Intervene firmly and gracefully when a panelist or audience member exceeds the time limit.
10. Acknowledge to the panelists and audience when you are running behind. When everyone knows that you are cognizant and watching the clock, they will breathe easier and let you take responsibility for catching up…and ending on time.
Listen to the podcast version of this blog!
To learn more steps to successfully moderate a panel discussion like a pro, try this user-friendly guide.
Kristin Arnold, professional panel moderator and high stakes meeting facilitator, shares her best practices for interactive, interesting, and engaging panel presentations. For more resources like this, or to have Kristin moderate your next panel visit the Powerful Panels official website.