How does a moderator prepare the panelists for a successful panel discussion at a meeting, conference, or convention?  Professional Panel Moderator Kristin Arnold asked this question of Brian Walter, Founder of Extreme Meetings and member of the US Speaker Hall of Fame.  He’s a freakin’ brilliant meetings maestro who amps up the energy, engages audiences as a way of life.

 

Video Transcript

Kristin:  Brian, what are some of the things you do to prepare the panelists for a successful presentation?

Brian:  I would say that’s going to be based on your knowledge as a facilitator of the audience, the questions, and the panelists. There’s a big difference between facilitating a panel within a company where you are an employee, and you might be the communications person, HR person, or management person and you are facilitating it. It could be an all hands meeting could be a leadership off site so this is all internal people. Saving face is hugely important, and so you need to protect your job by making sure that they look good. So in those cases you want to make sure that they aren’t going to get negatively surprised, only positively surprised. You might also if you have a senior executive or somebody who is an expert but maybe they are not superfast on their feet, you want to make sure that they have the opportunity to be successful. So, for example, in those cases, that question behind the question, I would go to one of them and give them the technique and say “when, you get a question where it’s kind of a softball question.” This is where you will say “you know, I can answer that.” But let’s talk about the question behind the question and then you articulate the question. You get more credibility because of that. Another thing I prepare them with, often times where I will see it towards the end, I will go to each of you and I will say “what is—and I will do either one or two things—I will say “what is the question you were really hoping no one was going to ask you?”

So, for example, in those cases, that question behind the question, I would go to one of them and give them the technique and say “when, you get a question where it’s kind of a softball question.” This is where you will say “you know, I can answer that.” But let’s talk about the question behind the question and then you articulate the question. You get more credibility because of that. Another thing I prepare them with, often times where I will see it towards the end, I will go to each of you and I will say “what is—and I will do either one or two things—I will say “what is the question you were really hoping no one was going to ask you?”

And again what happens is the audience are going to go “ooh!” Now because they are prepared for it, they did a little acting job. (makes noise). I was kind of hoping no one was going to ask about this, but then, of course, you as the facilitator says “but of course, let’s go ahead. And then they kind of feel (makes noise) and then they answer it. Or another variation of that you would say “You know, what is the question that no one has asked yet that they should be asking?” So you are allowing the panelists to self-interview, to ask their own question.

Now they could take it down the path of their favorite project or their favorite pet peeves or they could demonstrate their insight into the audience saying “you know, no one has asked about this. You know why no one asks about this? Because we’re all deep down scared about this, and we don’t want to admit it to ourselves. I know because I used to feel that way too until… And suddenly they morph into this great thing where they’re articulating what people were thinking but were afraid to ask. Our respect for that panelist member (makes noise) goes through the roof.

 

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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!