8 Tips for Moderating a Panel

A few weeks ago at Blog World & New Media Expo was my first time moderating a panel.  The topic was “What Goes Into Growing A Music Blog.”

Having gone to many conferences and spoken numerous times myself on the topics of social media and music, I had seen some of the best and worst moderators.  Below are my 8 tips for moderating a panel.

1.  Curb the bulk of the panel to fit the interests and experiences of the panelists, so they can add value and insight.

I had a few ideas of what I wanted my panel to be about, but it inevitably had to be something that the panelist could talk about and would be passionate about.  Otherwise, it’s a moderator leading the conversation instead of curating it.

2Have a conference call with all the panelists.

This sets a tone for the panel itself and allows each of the panelists to get acquainted beforehand.  I wrote down 5 questions I wanted to ask each panelist during the call, so I could find out what they could speak about with confidence.  Also, it’s good for the panelists hone down their answers and know which anecdotes or examples to use when speaking.

3.  Type and print out an itinerary to hand out to panelists

Seems simple and obvious, but I find a lot of moderators forget about this.  It allows the panel to more easily remain on course instead of going on tangents.

4.  Meet with panelist one hour early

It’s to be assumed that 1 or more will show up “late”, but 15 or even 30 minutes late still gives you 30+ minutes to go over the itinerary, talk things over, allow the panelists to jot down notes, and have time to relax before you hit the stage for the panel.

5.  The panel is for the audience

People who speak well on panels can probably speak forever, but is the moderators job to step in from panelists derailing the conversation (including irrelevant personal anecdotes) and, more importantly, excessive detail going well above audience’s understanding.

The audience is there for two main reasons:  to connect with the people on stage (including the moderator) and/or to learn something.  Going far off the topic depletes the latter.  That being said, when it comes time to the Q&A, let them ask what they want (within means of course) because they’re looking for insight from the entire panel.

6.  Let the panelists do most of the talking

I’ve seen a lot of moderators be mic hoggers as opposed to listeners.  Don’t be that person.  You’ve (hopefully) carefully selected your panel of experts for the very reason of having them speak from experience.  However, it is important to step in to ask follow up questions, clarify any confusion, cut off a rambling panelist, transition the conversation from question to another, and more importantly…

7.  Reiterate larger insights from a panelist

Example:  Good relationships with music publicists are essential for a blogger to receive exclusive content.

It may be good to take note of these before hand, especially from anything key mentioned during your call or meeting before the panel.  Overall, when the moderator can condense a panelist’s answer to a short statement, it helps drive the point home even better from the audience’s point of view.

8.  Know when enough is enough

Having spent time planning before the panel began, you’ll know a better understanding of the flow of the panel as well as an appropriate time of when it should end, so when you feel like it’s time for Q&A, just get with it.

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