How can a moderator prepare the panelists right before the panel discussion starts in order to have an amazing panel discussion at meetings, conferences and conventions? Professional Panel Moderator Kristin Arnold asked this question of the late Warren Evans, professional speaker, futurist and member of the Canadian Speaker Hall of Fame.
Kristin: Warren, do you meet with the panelists prior to going on stage?
Warren: Now ideally you can have dinner with your panel the night before and all that kind of stuff, but if I’m doing a panel after a keynote, one of the things that I will ask the meeting planner is if my keynote ends at 10:00 and everybody’s going to coffee break, and at 10:20 we’re kicking up the panel, I want to meet the panelists at 10:00 at the stage. And as everybody is streaming out of the room to go to coffee, we’re standing offstage in the corner; we’re shaking hands. We’re saying hello, and once everybody’s out to the coffee, we’re actually up on stage. And I’m doing two things; I want them comfortable on stage; I want them comfortable with the environment we’re sitting in. And I’m also joking and teasing and sort of yanking people’s chains a bit and bringing a little bit of irreverence, a little bit of cynicism.
What I’m trying to do is set the tone with the panel that we can have fun with this; we can be casual with this. There are degrees to which you can do that. If you’re in an industry event with three rows of media in the back room and high-powered officers, there are limits to what you can do. But in the vast majority of instances, you set some of that up. And if the panel starts to become a motherhood, and apple pie, and bumper sticker pattern kind of stuff, then my basic strategy is to go to a third party voice. So I will say to the panelists and part of the reason I’m going to spend those 20 minutes with them is that I also want to get a sense of who I can get reaction from, who can roll with this. Who’s fast on their feet because you never know what you’re going to have to work with, and there are some very, very brilliant people who do fabulous good stuff as long as they have lots of time to think about it and write it carefully, but spontaneity may not be their forte.
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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!