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Dr. John McLaughlin, creator and host of the political talk show,“The McLaughlin Group” died at age 89 on Wednesday.

It’s a sad passing for panel moderators around the world as McLaughlin was a trailblazer in the political talk show genre that inspired so many panel discussions.

According to the Hollywood ReporterThe McLaughlin Group premiered in 1982,”featuring the former priest and presidential speechwriter moderating a panel discussion that included pundits from both sides of the political spectrum. The blunt McLaughlin would introduce a specific issue, which he and his panelists would then debate during the show.”

It was the format that was so intriguing:  John had a loud and powerful voice who often made witty and sometimes arguably outlandish predictions.  Usually, John would set the context for the topic and take a poll from the audience.  The conversation would start out mild enough.  As opposing viewpoints emerge, there would be more verbal sparring, good-natured ribbing and occasionally very loud crosstalk as panelists attempted to out-yell the others.

For highly contentious issues that don’t have a simple right/wrong answer, it’s a brilliant panel format to get the juices flowing, the issues out on the table and discussed in a highly engaging way.

Here’s an example of an agenda I created for a client who wanted to use “The McLaughlin Format”:

Minute      Item
0:00          Welcome, Format Overview, Agenda and Ground Rules.  Note: Panelists are to yield when the moderator speaks

0:02           [Shout] “Issue 1” – explained by the moderator or prerecorded video segment

0:03           Optional: Take a poll e.g. “On a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 representing zero possibility and 10 representing complete metaphysical certitude…”

Moderator poses question to Panelist A, who then answers.  Discussion ensues.  Note: The conversation starts out pretty mild. As opposing viewpoints emerge, there is more verbal sparring, good-natured ribbing and occasionally very loud crosstalk as panelists attempt to out-yell others.

0:12            Issue 1 Exit Question – each panelist makes a closing remark on the issue

0:14            “Issue 2” – explained by the moderator or prerecorded video segment

0:15            Moderator poses question to Panelist B, who then answers.  Discussion ensues

0:25            Issue 2 Exit Question – each panelist makes a closing remark on the issue

0:27            “Issue 3” – explained by the moderator or prerecorded video segment

0:28            Moderator poses question to Panelist C, who then answers.  Discussion ensues

0:38            Issue 3 Exit Question – each panelist makes a closing remark on the issue

0:40            “Issue 4” – explained by the moderator or prerecorded video segment

0:41            Moderator poses question to Panelist C, who then answers. Discussion ensues

0:51            Issue 4 Exit Question – each panelist makes a closing remark on the issue

0:53            Predictions. Each panelist makes a near or long term prediction on a topic of their own choosing OR the moderator will ask for a “forced prediction” from the panelists regarding a specific question.

0:58            Thank you/administrative directions (where to go next, instructions for the book signing).  End with some sort of reference to the upcoming holiday.

1:00            Adjourn

As TV’s longest-serving single host of a talk show in history, he will be missed. But his legacy will live on as panel moderators continue to be inspired by the McLaughlin Group format.

For quick tips and techniques from industry professionals to help you moderate a lively and informative panel discussion at your next meeting, conference or convention, visit the Powerful Panels YouTube playlist, “Powerful Panel Discussion Tips.”

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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.

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