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Only in Moderation: Tips on Leading a Panel

Public speaking is one of the most unspoken, yet difficult, parts of the business world. Some people have a knack for it. Others need help, to the point where some universities have semester-long courses for it. It can be a tough ask for someone to stand in front of a group, or a camera/microphone, and deliver information to the masses.

Now try doing that while also being in charge of 3 or 4 other strangers.

Moderating a panel, whether in-person or on a webinar, is complicated. It involves preparation, public speaking, and tactfulness, all while keeping the viewers engaged, as well. Parmonic has seen its fair share of panels, as we continue to develop the smartest B2B video AI out there. Here are some of our tips on how to moderate a panel.

  1. PREP YOUR PANELISTS: Not everyone has gone to improv classes. As mentioned above, public speaking is hard enough without having to come up with an answer on the fly. Give your panelists some guidelines before the panel itself so they can have an idea of what to expect. An email with draft questions would more than suffice and put your panelists (and your mind) at ease.
  2. YOU HAVE THE POWER: As a moderator, your primary job is to give the audience an informative and fun experience. You are not meant to stroke the panelists’ egos or let the discussion become a monologue. If you feel like someone has gone on speaking for too long, the audience most likely feels the same way. Use a positive statement to interject yourself back into the conversation, and use that time to steer it towards another panelist.
  3. LET THE CONVERSATION BE FLUID: There is a middle ground when it comes to structuring a panel discussion. On one side, there are those who do not establish who should go first or answer a follow-up question. One the other side rest those that stick to “person 1, then person 2, then person 3” for everything. Neither is ideal. Part of finding the middle ground comes from knowing your panelists. If you think panelist 3 might have a great insight on something panelist 1 says, there is no harm in skipping panelist 2.
  4. YOU ARE THE AUDIENCE SURROGATE: If you are confused by something your panel says, the audience feels the same way. Do not be afraid to ask for clarification or elaboration. Oftentimes, those responses will lead to a more worthwhile talk.

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