How to Moderate a Panel Discussion: Moderator’s Role (Video #2, 6 1/2mins)On August 30, 2019 by Raul Dinwiddie
Welcome to the second video in the series
of Powerful Panels: How to Moderate a Lively and Informative Panel Discussion. We’re on
the second video and today’s topic is “What does a panel moderator do?” It’s a good question
because you’re being asked to moderate a panel, so let’s start there.
A panel moderator, your primary job is to help the audience get their needs met through
this panel format, whatever panel format you decide, but it’s all about the audience and
when you keep that in mind as a panel moderator, you’re going to be wildly successful regardless
what happens. As long as you keep that in mind, you have a good, solid format and you
follow that format. The panel moderator has lots of different
roles, different hats that you wear and you need to be pretty good at multitasking all
of these different roles that you’re carrying so that the audience gets their needs met
through this format. First and foremost, you are the champion for
the audience. You’ve got a good format, you’ve got good panelists, you’re moderating the
discussion- it all needs to serve the audience. Yes, you do want to make your panelists looks
brilliant. You don’t want anybody to walk away feeling bad or feeling discouraged or
looking bad, but really, it’s not the primary objective. The primary objective is to serve
the audience and when your audience’s needs are not being met, you need to step in.
So, you’re the champion for the audience and usually you have a pretty good feel for that
because you’ve got this little voice in the back of your head going, “I’m not sure that
everybody’s understanding this point,” or “I’m not sure this is contributing to the
overall objective,” and that’s when you need to intervene on behalf of the audience.
You’re also the facilitator. You’ve designed an agenda. You’re guiding the process. You
are not the sage on the stage. It is not about you looking brilliant. It’s about guiding
the process, and to do that, you’re a facilitator, you’re a timekeeper. you’re keeping track
of time because you do want to start on time but most importantly you want to end on time.
You want to honor the panelists, you want to honor the audience, you want to make sure
that the audience gets their needs met– that is a facilitator’s point of view.
You’re also a little bit of an instigator. Panels that have complete agreement, you kind
of get the dashboard dog effect, you know those little bobble heads that are on the
dashboard and they’re not very interesting? So, you need to be a little bit of an instigator
and know what the issues are, know what the hot buttons are, make sure that the panelists
have differing points of view at the beginning. So, there’s a little bit of content curation
that you need to do. You need to be a little bit knowledgeable
about the topic but frankly, it becomes a little distracting if you know too much about
the topic because then you’re going to want to weigh in and then who’s facilitating the
panel? There has to be a little bit of a balance but you need to spice it up a little bit if
it’s not getting spicy on its own. You also are providing the energizer role.
Keeping it brisk and moving and fast paced and if you have a sense of humor, which hopefully
you do, you use your sense of humor to keep the energy up, up, up, up for 60, 90 minutes.
Make sure that there’s lots of value, lots of content, lots of takeaways for the audience,
keeping it energizing and interesting. You’re also a logistician. You are not the
meeting planner and you are not the AV person, but you coordinate a lot of those things and
if there isn’t a meeting planner or there isn’t an AV person or nobody’s really paying
attention to the room set, or some of the characteristics that make sure that the audience
is comfortable as well as the panelists are comfortable, you’re comfortable, people can
hear you, people can hear the panelists, people can hear the fellow audience members, that’s
all logistics and somebody needs to pay attention to those things. That would be you. You don’t
have to do it all, but you do need to be a bit of a logistician.
And lastly, as a panel moderator you really need to be neutral and objective. Yes, you
might have a lot of knowledge about the subject and maybe the meeting chair who hired you,
who brought you on, who asked you to moderate it was thinking, “Oh, well Kristin knows a
lot about this subject. We’ll have her moderate the panel.” They really don’t want to hear
from you. They want to hear from the panel of experts, the panel of practitioners and
they need you to be neutral and objective because when you are not, then you might jump
into the water along with them. You can contribute content, but contribute
content as a fallback if there isn’t anything else being mentioned. So, it’s a real important
point to keep in mind as you are wearing your moderator hat. You’ve got a lot of different
roles: you’re the champion for the audience, you’re the facilitator, the timekeeper, the
instigator, the energizer, the logistician. You’re doing an awful lot of stuff. You don’t
need to be contributing content if you have fabulous, fabulous panelists and a great process
that you’re following. So, that’s what a panel moderator does. You
help the audience get their needs met through the panel format, multitasking all of these
different roles. That’s video two. I hope you enjoyed it and
looking forward to video three which is the first step of the process, which is about
clarifying the starting conditions. See you on the other side.