What do you do to make your panel discussions more interesting for the audience at meetings, conferences, and conventions? Professional Panel Moderator Kristin Arnold asked this question of Susan Morris, a fantasy author, editor and absurdly frequent panel moderator at GenCon.
Kristin: Susan, what do you do to make your panels more interesting for the audience?
Susan: I would say that humor is probably my main one. Like, even when I’m saying the rules, I try to say them in a light and humorous way. For instance, I almost always say, “We’ll have about 15 minutes for questions at the end,” and the third point is, “Please keep all questions in the form of questions.” And that usually gets a laugh and kind of lightens things up.
In addition, I always try and do the lead from behind method for getting people to explore the space. And so when we’re talking to panelists, for instance, if they do give a laconic answer, if it’s like one word or something, if you play dumb, it can be one of the most amusing ways to get people to explore the space, as long as it’s obvious that you’re in on the joke.
And so, for instance, I did this one on characters once and on creating tension with characters. And so I was asking the panelists, “How do you get people invested in the story?” And one guy said, “Characters,” and everyone else was like, “Yep.” And so I said, “Like what? Have some?” And, you know, by being able to play dumb there and yet be in on it, you know, taking it super seriously, like, “Oh, I have characters, I’m good,” it actually made them explore the space, they laughed, they said something funny, and it kind of brought life into it.
That is probably the thing that is most uniquely me, is using that kind of question. Because I think a lot of people don’t do the play dumb, and take things literally, and explore the space that way, technique, but I found it incredibly effective for getting the audience participation as well.
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Kristin Arnold, professional panel moderator, and high stakes meeting facilitator is on a crusade to make all panel discussions informative, interactive, and interesting. Specifically, she wants to help YOU become a better panel moderator. Why? Because 95% of annual meetings have panel discussions – and according to the 2014 Panel Report, it’s a fifty-fifty proposition they are any good at all! Expectations decrease dramatically when your attendees walk in and see the traditional draped head-table with microphones on short stands. There are sooooo many other ways to have a stimulating conversation! So let’s increase the probability of success for your next panel discussion with these resources.
And, you can always go back to the playlist for more Powerful Panel Discussion Tips!