The panel discussion is a go-to format for many conference planners. These forums may be exciting for the panelists but they’re often a bore for audiences and a chore for moderators.
Here are some tips for keeping it fresh next time you’re asked to facilitate a few speakers:
Involve the audience in the first five minutes.
Ask a few people to introduce themselves to get a sense of who’s in the audience. This keeps your panelists from acting as if they’re in a bubble.
PowerPoint presentations will usually gobble up your time and prevent any kind of interesting interactions from happening.
Don’t go down the line for every question.
Two answers are plenty, unless a third person is dying to jump in. Instead, ask a related question, ask for a concrete example, or simply shift gears and ask your other panelists something else.
Adapted from “How To Moderate a Panel Like a Pro,” by Scott Kirsner.