Five Fundamentals on Moderating a Panel
Speaking gigs are a true sign of success. You have been recognized as a key opinion leader in your field and you have been asked to share your knowledge and insight. But what about moderating a panel? This too is an acknowledgement of industry leadership. As such, it is a role for which you should be well prepared to ensure the audience benefits from the combined expertise and experience of the moderator and the panelists. Here are 5 fundamentals for moderating excellence.
Know your panelists: Know your panelists individually and as a group. Don’t just scan through their LinkedIn page – understand what their company does, what their job entails and past experience in the field. Conduct an introductory call with the panelists to pressure test topics and ensure there is a good mix of opinions and insights.
Don’t ask the same question of each panelist: The audience does not want to sit through panelists regurgitating information about the same question. Use your research to help generate questions for specific panelists. Some panelists will have drug development expertise and others will have insights into commercialization. Some will be in markets or indications that overlap, and others will not. Target these overlaps and differences to optimize the questions you ask.
Be an active listener: Take notes. Revisit the most important topics that created great conversation and debate. As a moderator, you can bring another perspective by using a third-party reference. For example, “That’s an interesting point Speaker B just made. However, there’s another school of thought that was covered recently in the media. Speaker A, can you comment?” Of course, as an active listener you can also reinforce a point. “That’s an interesting point Speaker B just made and one that was covered recently in the media. Speaker A, can you comment?” Active listening allows you to engage the audience by challenging some points of view and reinforcing others.
Be a mindful timekeeper: Timekeeping is an important task for the moderator. It is your role to lead an engaging conversation within a pre-specified amount of time. Make sure to save some time at the end for audience questions, but not so much that the onus is on them to keep the session going. And don’t hold the audience hostage beyond the allotted time. Your role is to alert the panelists and the audience as the clock winds down. Be prepared to say, “We have time for one more question.”
Have a closing statement: Having alerted the room that the session is coming to an end, make sure you’ve saved a few minutes for closing remarks. Use the notes that you have taken throughout to leave the audience with 3 – 5 takeaways from the panel discussion. A strong close will ensure the audience leaves with an appreciation for the knowledge and expertise not only of the panelists, but also the moderator.