What kind of panel moderator are you?
That was the question as a few of us were sipping martinis on our back deck in Prince Edward Island, gazing out at the ocean. We came up with 8 different styles – and agreed that we have seen all eight styles – although not all at the same time!
Perhaps you identify with one or two styles…or perhaps you use a blend. Just beware of when a specific style comes on too strong and doesn’t serve the audience well.
And just for fun, we tried to pair up the style with a famous American talk show host. Would love to know your ideas as well!
Beware the Inquisitor: With a knife edge that digs too deeply, asks challenging questions too sharply or asks leading questions to move forward a specific agenda.
I love the way Mette Harrison described the “Ellen Kushner Dinner Party”:
[Fantasy Author] Ellen Kushner explained that she hopes that the audience in her panels feels like they have been sitting in on a dinner party. She wants everyone to feel equally empowered to speak, but she feels no obligation to sit back and let the other panelists do the talking. She strategizes by trying to think of fun jumping off points and sort of throws them into the mix and lets what is going to happen happen. She doesn’t try to keep people from having a heated discussion. In fact, in some ways, it seemed that what she wanted was two opposing sides duking it out up on the podium.
Beware the Empty Host who just shows up to the party without doing the requisite planning. The panel then devolves into an audience-driven free-for-all where the panelists respond to crazy questions.
Beware the Star who keeps the spotlight on themselves by talking too much, turning the conversation toward her own agenda and/or hawking their products or services.
Role Models: Greta Van Susteren, Bill Maher
Beware of being the Sideliner who realizes he is in way over his head. He doesn’t know how to facilitate the conflict, so he backs out of the conversation and lets the two sides duke it out.
Beware the Dominator who takes over the panel discussion, calls on himself more often than any other panelist, or has the answer for everything. So who’s minding the process?
Beware being The Clown that has to make everything “funny.”
Role Models: Hmmm….I think I’ll stay ignorant on this one!
Beware Staying Ignorant. You know how to do this. Draw up a quick agenda and touch base with your panelists in the few moments before the start of the session. Consider starting with a quick definition of the topic and get the audience to tell you what they want to know about it. Then have the panelists introduce themselves along with an answer or insight into what the audience wants to know.
Role Models: Ha. Ha. I’m not that stupid to name someone an idiot!
Beware Staying Stupid. If you are going to moderate a panel discussion, by all means, do the work and do it well! Check out my book, Powerful Panels: A Step-By-Step Guide to Moderating Lively & Informative Panel Discussions at Meetings, Conferences & Conventions.
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.