How to Ace a “Strategic Moment” as a Panel Moderator

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Have you ever been on a panel (or watched a panel discussion) when the topic started out in one direction, and because of the synergy of the panelists as well as the interest and energy of the audience, the conversation morphed in a different direction? 

Yes it happens.  Sometimes, that’s a good shift – because the panel discussion should benefit the audience.  And if the conversation ain’t getting there, then you gotta shift.  But then again, the conversation might have been hijacked by one or two panelists or a few vocal and visual audience members!

I call this a “Strategic Moment” when the moderator has a choice.  The moderator can continue on the prescribed path OR proceed in a new direction.

Strategic moments are both a crisis and an opportunity.  The crisis is one of faith.  If the moderator calls a new direction, will the audience agree (or slam them on the session evaluation?) If the moderator chooses a new path, will that conversation be lively and informative?  It will certainly be spontaneous, but will it still meet the needs of the audience?

When facing a strategic moment, the panel moderator needs to:

  • Make a Conscious Choice.  The panel moderator is in a quandary.  What to do?  Whatever you decide, make an intentional choice.  If left undecided, the panelists and the audience will be confused and the conversation will become scattered.
  • Call It.  Recognize that the panel is facing a strategic moment where the discussion will diverge from the advertised objective of the panel.  Make sure everyone (panelists and the audience) understands the significance of the moment.
  • Declare a New Path.  Since the conversation is going to go in a new direction, describe the process – how you are going to proceed.  Most of the time, the process will not change, just the focus and content of the conversation.

When faced with a strategic moment, make a conscious choice to change direction, announce it to the panelists and audience, and declare the process you’ll use to continue the conversation.

 

Related Articles:

Moderators, Are You Over-preparing Your Panelists?

How to Create GREAT Questions for Your Panelists to Answer during Your Panel Discussion

Panel Discussion Tip #161 with Mark Sanborn: What To Do With a Hyper Panelist

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.

Kristin Arnold
Kristin Arnold
Award-winning author Kristin Arnold is an expert panel moderator and professional meeting facilitator.
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