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 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.
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.