The first few minutes of your panel discussion are absolutely critical. Although people shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, they do. The audience (and panelists) need to know that they are in good hands with you at the helm of the panel discussion.
After all, you’ve done your homework. You have a solid process in place. You know the panelists. They are prepared and now it is showtime!
So take one to two minutes to warmly welcome the audience and solidify your connection. Tee up the topic. Tell them what they can expect as a result of investing time with you and the panelists.
And for goodness sakes, it is NOT a “speech.” Do NOT start with a story about yourself. Prattle on about how honored you are to moderate the panel. Regale us with all your knowledge about the topic. I hate to break this to you, but no one cares what your problems are. They care about how the panel is going to impart that will make their lives better. You can do this easily by:
- Asking participants a provocative and/or polarizing question about their top issues, ideas, and thoughts about the topic.
- Ask a provocative question – but only allow the answers to use the improv technique of “yes and…”
- Sharing something interesting and complimentary based on what you have discovered about them. Everyone is always eager to hear about themselves and how they compare to others.
- Sharing results of a survey they took earlier and how that compares to others.
- Facilitating an icebreaker or game that ties to the topic.
- Sharing a fun fact or statistic.
- Showing a prop related to the topic.
- Sharing the impact (benefits as well as unfavorable consequences) of the topic on the reality of their lives if the present situation is/is not resolved.
- Taking a meaningful audience poll to discover commonalities among the participants— where the answers are interesting to you as well as the audience. Asking the audience, on a scale of one to ten, how affected they are by the topic.
- Polling the panelists to showcase where they are and are not in agreement.
- Offering a direct-to-the-heart-of-the-matter statement that links everyone in the room to your subject.
- Reporting a startling statistic that hooks them in.
- Pairing participants up to share with each other something relatively quick and easy to answer.
- Sharing a recent occurrence or success story related to the topic.
- Telling an interesting short story, metaphor or analogy.
- Getting the ball rolling with one of a gazillion conversation starters.
- Sharing a humorous observation about the topic and/or the panelists.
When you confidently start your panel discussion, you’ll set the panelists up for success and let the audience know that they are in good hands.
How Moderators Can Manage Awkward Audience Comments
How to Create GREAT Questions for Your Panelists to Answer during Your Panel Discussion
Panel Discussion Tip #185 with Jeffrey Hayzlett: Finishing Panel Discussions
For more resources on moderating panel discussions, visit the Knowledge Vault. To have Kristin moderate your next panel, visit the Powerful Panels official website.