Monday, February 13, 2012

20 Steps to Moderating a Panel Presentation

Panel presentations that consist of two or more individual talks on a topic are popular vehicles for communicating information at conferences, trade shows, and other events. The individual charged with coordinating a panel presentation, the moderator, is advised to follow these 20 steps to ensure its success.


1.Review information on event purpose, sponsoring organization, and attendees. This body of knowledge informs the panel’s purpose, specifically how it fits into the overall event theme and what indivdiuals will learn by attending.

2.Invite presenters based on company or industry standing and ability to speak on the topic, specifically to complement (or counter) perspectives offered by other panelists.

3.Offer individual speakers guidance on issues you want them to address, and share this guidance with other speakers to reduce the likelihood of repetitiveness. Emphasize that blatant self-promotion or commercialism will not be tolerated (unless the panel focuses on a demonstration of competitive products or services).

4.Identify at least two more candidates for presentations than you have available speaking opportunities, as one or more of the individuals you invite likely will be unable to participate.

5.Confirm speaker participation in writing. Provide details regarding the day, time, and place of the panel; the event’s purpose, a schedule of other activities, and a profile on attendees; panel objectives; the names of other speakers, affiliations, and contact information; the length of time for prepared remarks and questions; guidance you shared previously; and how speakers can contact you.

6.Confirm spelling and pronunciation of speakers’ names, titles, and affiliations. Request biographies, background information, and special meeting room requirements or audiovisual equipment needs, if any. Arrange for one microphone per speaker in a large room, plus one each for you and the audience that can be used during the question and answer session.

7.Follow up to answer questions and, as necessary, assist with presentation development.

8.Ask if speakers will make materials available to attendees, either as hard or soft (electronic) copies. Review these materials before the event, and incorporate relevant points into your introduction. Ask speakers to bring hard copies of materials with them to the event, if possible.

9.Write your panel introduction, which relates the presentation’s focus to the event as a whole. Answer two questions in this one-minute speech: Why are we addressing this subject? Why should attendees pay attention to it now?

10.Write speaker introductions. Mention each speaker’s name, title, and affiliation, and highlight the subject of the speaker’s talk, other expertise that’s relevant, and how the topic relates to material presented by the previous speaker. This introduction should run no more than 30 seconds per speaker.

11.Contact panelists a day or two before the event to confirm time and place of a meeting prior to the presentation to review logistics.


12.Check the setup of the room, and make sure that microphones and audiovisual equipment function correctly.

13.Conduct a final briefing with panelists. Review the speaking order, presentation length, the timing mechanism, and availability of handouts, if any. Confirm availability of individual speakers after the conclusion of the panel for conversations with audience members.

14.Time the individual speakers. Establish a signal that informs speakers when they should conclude their remarks. Emphasize to speakers the importance of concluding their remarks within the allotted time.

15.Introduce the panel.

16.Introduce all speakers. Explain the format of the panel, including time allotted for all speaker remarks followed by the question and answer session.

17.Solicit questions at the conclusion of prepared remarks. If a microphone is unavailable for attendees to use, repeat questions. Be sure to take questions from different sections of the audience. Accept questions from people who have not had the opportunity to speak before allowing someone to ask a second question. Encourage panelists to keep their answers brief. At the appropriate time, announce that panelists will entertain one or two more questions to signal that the presentation will soon conclude.

18.Thank the speakers at the conclusion of the question and answer period. Mention their availability to answer questions immediately after the event, and/or if they can be contacted later.


19.Send thank you notes to the individual panelists, event coordinator, and others involved in planning. For the speakers, include feedback you received informally from attendees plus what is relayed to you by the event coordinator.

20.Assess your performance as moderator and the effectiveness of the panel. What went well? What might have been done better? What feedback did you receive that you can use the next time you moderate a panel?

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