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Moderating Panels Part 1

You’re perceived as important in your field. Who better to lead a panel discussion?
Keep some crucial elements in mind- and you’ll leave your audience invigorated.

Here are 7 Preparation Tips .
1.    Homework- the more you know about your panel members the better.  It gives you ammunition for comments.. follow-up.. questions.  This includes personal bios- eg. lesser known facts and personal interests often come in handy.
2.    What is the goal that you ultimately want to achieve?  What might you want to tease out? What do you want to leave your audience with?  Facts, ideas, changes in attitude? Tell your audience the purpose of this event.
3.    Do you intend to show any visuals- ie. a very short opening video.. pictures or graphics? Might you use visuals to promote dialogue as you proceed? Make sure you have monitors set up facing the panelists as well. 
Preparing Your Panelists
4.    Ask your panelists for brief introductions they would like used: 3 or 4 brief sentences max.  (Remind the audience that the longer details are in the event program.) What types of questions might they expect from you?  Remind them that new, unexpected questions will be generated as the event proceeds. 
5.    Biggest panel mistake: A panel is not a succession of speeches from panelists! Tell your panelists to expect an initial question in order to lay the groundwork for the ensuing discussion- but the event is intended to be an active dialogue- and they should expect to jump in. The more it moves along with changes in pacing and sentiment buoying the information and chat- the more stimulating the event.     
6.    Make sure you have a smartphone or stopwatch handy during the event.
We are in an impatient, fast-paced world.  Lay out any time-related ground rules to the panelists.  You will cut them off-  with a prior warning- after x seconds or minutes.  Will they have [15.. 30.. 45.. 60 seconds]  for a closing comment? 
7.    Technology!   Have you practiced using your remote for visuals? What’s Plan B for unanticipated tech problems?   Will participants need any assistance using their mics ?  Do you have a cordless mic so you can leave the podium and walk around? 

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