Professional Panel Moderator Kristin Arnold asked Susan Morris, a fantasy author, editor and absurdly frequent panel moderator at GenCon how to deal with panel moderators who tend to overstep their bounds during a panel discussion at meetings, conferences, and conventions.
Kristin: Susan, how do you deal with panel moderators who tend to overstep their role?
I think that key to leadership is setting expectations, setting patterns, and setting rules, so that everyone knows the sandbox you’re playing in.
I don’t think you can blame someone for overstepping if you all have different expectations as to what the space is. So I always start by introducing myself and the panel and the panel description, and then thanking the audience for coming, inviting the panelists to introduce themselves, and then setting some ground rules. And the ground rules kind of let everyone know that, “Hey, there are rules,” but also they set the structure for the whole event, so that people know what to expect. And so if I am hurrying people along or if I have to cut someone short, it’s understood, because it’s part of the structure and it’s not unexpected.
I think unexpected is probably the worst thing in a panel, if something happens that they just don’t understand, and that’s when they’re most likely to strike back or something.
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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.
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