While there is great debate in the moderator community about who should introduce the panelists, let’s put it on record that I’m not a big fan of panel introductions at all. Presumably, the bios are already published (either in the program or the meeting app), 99% of the attendees already know the panelists, and/or nobody really cares about the credentials, anyway! (And I should know, I have that “string of letters” behind my name. No. One. Cares.)
If you must introduce the panelists, here are a few tips:
- Keep It Short. Just because the panelist sent you their long bio, “cv” or resume, doesn’t mean you have to read it all. Create a two sentence bio for each panelist that quickly establishes why that person is uniquely qualified to be there.
- Know Their Names. Not only should you know how to pronounce their names, but you should also be consistent in the application. Use all first names (Hilary). Or use the honorific (Secretary Clinton), but don’t mix them up! (Hilary and Mr. Trump)
- Make It Interesting. You may want to include an interesting comment on the position he is taking, why she is so passionate about the topic, or why he was selected to be on the panel.
- Watch for Biases. As you strive to make it interesting, there are some significant, subconscious biases that come in to play – especially when the moderator “wings” the introductions. Janina Dill shared some shocking examples about how we can botch this up in a recent blog post.
- Keep It Consistent. To prevent these biases, make sure the introductions are equitable and have a similar length and style.
- Memorize It. Another way to prevent these biases is to memorize the introductions. I know, that’s more work for you, but the audience will appreciate your cheerful eye contact. If you must, read it from a large index card. (For more complex panels, I use index cards as prompts for welcoming remarks, panelist introductions, key questions for each panelist and closing remarks. I also buy a circle ring at an office supply store to keep them all together – and in order.) Here’s an example:
- Create a Visual. Give the audience a visual cue as to which panelist is which. The typical method is to create name tents which rest on a white draped table (ugh! Boring!). I prefer a simple slide that has the picture, name, title, a few key attributes and Twitter handle for each panelist in the order in which they are seated. (Yes, that takes a bit of coordination, but well worth it as you can see below during Jill Konrath’s Competitive Edge Panel. This technique also gives the audience the sense that they are in good hands – the moderator is prepared).
Bottom Line: Introductions should be brief, informative, professional and warm with a similar length and style – so the attendees are willing to listen and participate in the panel discussions.
If you could benefit from learning more panel moderation techniques, join us for this webinar on “Using Creative Training Techniques to Engage the Audience During a Panel Discussion.”
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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.