Professional Panel Moderator Kristin Arnold asks Terry Brock, technology trends expert, virtual panel moderator, and member of the US Speaker Hall of Fame to share his perspective on how to overcome some of the technical challenges that arise with virtual panel discussions at meetings, conferences, and conventions.

Video Transcript

Kristin: Terry, how do you overcome some of the technical challenges that arise with virtual panels?

Terry: One of the things that I’m doing and we’re in the process of right now is building our checklist so you have a checklist of “do this, do that” like, for instance, check the audio; check the video.

One of the things we did also, I’ll show the full kimono here. What we did is before we knew this organization that I’m working with, I’m going to speak for them but I’m charging them for the webinars; I’m not charging anything to speak. I’m speaking for free, but I’m going to charge them for the virtual presence presentations that I do. So I’m doing those beforehand, and what we did is I had my assistant Natalia call up the key people that we were going to use that the meeting planner asked us to work with. And we called him up beforehand, way beforehand like two or three weeks and said, “We want to test and do a Google Hangout with you” because they didn’t have the equipment. At first, they said, “Sure, we’ll do it; call up.” We called up, come to find out they did not have a little thing called a webcam, and so we had to say, “You know, if you’re going to be on a video, you need a webcam.” They did know, but they hadn’t used it. With all good fairness, I mean, there are a lot of things that a surgeon would say, “Well, do you have a “lugo lugo” or whatever it is because I’m not a surgeon; I wouldn’t know. And they go, “Well everybody knows about the lugo lugos” and I go, “I don’t.” What we did is we said, “Fine, no problem; you’re going to need a webcam. Here are the specifications; here’s what you can get. Call Amazon or go to your local store and you can buy one of these, this kind of thing.” So they go, “Oh, okay, got it.” Plugged it in and kept it; we had two or three calls checking because I even called the day before, and it wasn’t working for them. They had installed what they thought was the driver, and it wasn’t working; they had to bring in someone from across the hall who was a little more knowledgeable of computers. We tried it there and it still didn’t work; so we said, “I’ll call you back.” We hung up; an hour later he called back, it was working beautifully. I said, “What’d you do?” They had to uninstall one of the two installations that they had because it got all knotted together. And you said, “No, we’re going to pull that apart, then reinstall it,” and it worked beautifully. Once it worked beautifully, we called in 20 minutes beforehand on the day of. Why? Just to test again.

One of the things I remember in high school and undergrad school, I did a little bit of drama, and I remember we had a thing called dress rehearsal. And at first brush, I thought, “Why do we need to do that?; we got everything.” But it seemed like every time there was always that one little prop that we needed maybe in act three that we thought we had, and then we were actually going through the dress rehearsal. And we went, “Wait a minute, where’s the hammer? Oh, we forgot. Okay, write it down, make sure we have the hammer in act three so we use it.”

Do your dress rehearsal for your virtual presentation way before because people will say, “Oh yeah, we’ve got a computer; it’s working,” and if they wait until five minutes before and sign on, they’ll go, “Well, it’s not working. This damned technology, it’s so bad.” The problem’s not the technology, the problem is you didn’t test beforehand. You didn’t test a few weeks before. And test the day of a few hours before. That way if something doesn’t quite work right, you can stop it or you can go out and get what they need.

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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.

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