Panel discussions are popular formats with many event organizers. However, poor facilitation can easily ruin their potential.
Done well, a panel can tap into every panelist's knowledge and create a challenging discussion that both the speakers and the audience will enjoy.
Here's a list of top moderating tips that will help you deliver an outstanding panel discussion.
1. Do in-depth research before the panel
A really good discussion evolves only when the moderator asks witty, to the point questions. To do that, you have to master the topic and fully understand the context of the panel.
So, before you can rock the stage, do your homework and review the topic well. Learn about the current trends in the industry, read influential blogs, or, when applicable, go over your panelists' published work to better relate to their argumentation.
2. Meet with the speakers in advance
Sync with your panelists at least a couple of days before the panel and ask them about their views on the upcoming discussion. Learn about the arguments they're planning to voice during the discussion and ask them about their expectations.
Getting to know the speakers in advance will help you prepare better questions and give the discussion a smoother flow.
3. Organize your time well
Events and conferences typically run on a very tight schedule, which makes managing the time of your panel quite challenging.
The best thing you can do is to create a detailed agenda of your panel: set realistic time frames for your opening, speaker intros, your own questions as well as the questions from the audience. If possible, keep the clock counter visible to both you and the speakers.
4. Craft a powerful opening
The opening of your panel sets the stage and context for the whole discussion so prepare one that will get your audience curious and attentive. A good practice is to start with greeting the audience, the panelists, and then open the discussion with sharing its main goals and purpose.
If you're using an audience engagement tool, now it's the best time to point it out. Introduce the platform to your audience and run a warm-up poll to get them familiar with using it.
Invite the audience to participate, and once you get enough votes, display the results on the screen and ask the panelists to comment on the results.