How do you balance the role between being a moderator vs. a panelist at a meeting, conference or convention? Professional panel moderator Kristin Arnold asked this question of Boston Globe journalist and panel moderator, Scott Kirsner, who also wrote the highly rated Harvard Business Review article on How to Moderate a Panel Like a Pro.
Kristin: How do you balance that role between the moderator and when you know as much if not more than the rest of the panelist?
Scott: Well that almost never happens for sure. But look I think if you want to show off how smart you are and how insightful you are about a space you should be a panelist. And you know if the organizer is saying to you like will you moderate and your impulse is like, “Well I really know a lot about this and I want my opinions to be heard at this conference” ask them to be a panelist instead of, “I think I’ll be a better panelist than a moderator on this one. I think when you are the moderator no matter how much you know about a topic and I definitely, I rarely think I know more about it than you know the panelist do.
I think if you are smarter you have had experience, you just let that inform kind of the issues you cover and the questions you ask and how you can of shape the conversation. Or like examples you bring in where like, “Well I hear what you’re, I know that’s the most recent example of you know whatever it is; financial malfeasance at a public company. But do you also remember in 2004 when this happened which is an example of something else.” You know like you can bring in you past experience but like the moderator trying to have an opinion or like seem too smart or get you know win brownie points with the audience is just like never a good thing.
You know they want you to be the traffic cop and the referee and let them get involved and kind of be their representative up there. They don’t want you to be sort of showing off how brilliant you are.
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Kristin Arnold, professional panel moderator, and high stakes meeting facilitator is on a crusade to make all panel discussions informative, interactive, and interesting. Specifically, she wants to help YOU become a better panel moderator. Why? Because 95% of annual meetings have panel discussions – and according to the 2014 Panel Report, it’s a fifty-fifty proposition they are any good at all! Expectations decrease dramatically when your attendees walk in and see the traditional draped head-table with microphones on short stands. There are sooooo many other ways to have a stimulating conversation! So let’s increase the probability of success for your next panel discussion with these resources.
And, you can always go back to the playlist for more Powerful Panel Discussion Tips!