Moderating a Panel of Your Peers – What’s Different?

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This past week, I moderated two panels of my peers at the National Speakers Association’s CSP/CPAE Summit in Coral Gables, FL.  The Summit had about 80 of the top speakers in the United States – our association’s Certified Speaking Professionals (CSP) and the Speaker’s Hall of Fame (CPAE) – who came together to discuss and share best practices.  It’s quite an intimate and special event and I was honored to be the Chair as well.

Later on in the day, one of my colleagues asked me, “How is it different to moderate a panel of your peers rather than a panel for a client that you don’t know so well?”

Interesting question which I have been pondering since.

My first reaction is around familiarity.  Because I know most of the people in the room, am friends with many, and we are part of an association family, I would say that I wasn’t as quick to intervene when someone spoke too long, didn’t answer a question or just needed to be reigned in.

I limited the length of the introductions and yet made them personal.  I said two sentences about why I asked them to be on the panel and provided a slide that showed the panelist picture, short bio info, and Twitter name.  That’s it.  Sweet and simple.

I chose a less active format.  As a peer, my questions may be no better than the audience’s questions, so I chose a format where each panelist shared some ideas for a few minutes.  Next, I started the conversation with a question to the panelists and then immediately moved out into the room for audience Q&A.  I did NOT sit down with the panelists and make the focus on the stage.  But then again, the size of the group allowed me to use this kind of format.

As a professional facilitator, I don’t think I got sucked into the content – where a moderator shows their bias and preference for a specific position or panelist.  But that might just be my ego talking here.  But that is a danger for anyone who is moderating their peers.

What else is different when you moderate your peers vs. a group you are not part of?
To learn the steps to successfully moderate a panel discussion like a pro, try this user-friendly guide.

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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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