What do you do to help prepare the panelists for the panel discussion 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 help prepare the panelists for the panel discussion?
Susan: When I can, I love sending the questions to them ahead of time and I love asking them what they think the panel is about, and if there’s anything they want to talk about and if there’s anything they don’t want to talk about. If I can’t send them an email ahead of time, then on the first day of the Con I find them and I ask them those things. And it’s really handy for, A, making sure you’re on the same page, because there’s nothing worse than showing up and having everyone on a different page, and, B, getting them kind of thinking about the space and thinking about you as a moderator, which, again, sets up that dynamic.
So I think those are the primary things, just getting to talk to them ahead of time. And I actually talked to the head of the Writers’ Symposium this year about making sure we have that space ahead of time to talk about the questions, just because I think as we get into more complex areas, if you’re talking about something super simple, it might be okay not to be as prepared, because you’ve talked about it all the time.
Some of these people go to like 10 conventions a year. But as we get into more complex topics, it’s no longer possible to just wing it for a panelist. They’re gonna actually have to think about it ahead of time. That, or you’re gonna have to use the teachers and the people who are professional presenters on those panels, and not use anyone else.
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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!