Panel Moderator Preparation

Tomorrow I have the opportunity to moderate a panel on the Atlanta startup ecosystem with three great entrepreneurs including Lynn Laube, Greg Foster, and Tyler Droll at the Rotary Club of Atlanta. As moderator, I like to go through a few simple preparation steps:

  • Develop 5 standard questions
  • Develop 2 panelist-specific questions (e.g. a question directed at a specific panelist)
  • Develop 3 recent news/events questions (the goal with the questions isn’t to get through them all but rather to have different options available based on how the conversation flows)
  • Confirm panel attendance 48 hours in advance
  • Meet 30 minutes before the panel to go over any last minute items, ensure mics work, etc.

As moderator, I want to make sure the panel conversation is lively, interesting and worthwhile — I’ve been to too many panels that weren’t engaging. Assuming the panelists are strong, this type of panel moderator preparation helps ensure a quality event.

What else? What are some more panel moderator preparation ideas?

4 thoughts on “Panel Moderator Preparation

  1. I like audience Q&A, but no one wants to be first. I’ve been known to plant a short question with a friendly attendee. After he or she gets the ball rolling, everyone else lines up for the mic.

  2. Do you recommend reviewing your questions with the panelists ahead of time?

    I suppose I could see either side – on the one had you might want the answers to be non-rehearsed and more authentic, but on the other hand preparation gives you an opportunity to get potentially more insightful responses.

    +1 with @stephenfleming’s approach to get live Q&A going too…

  3. Great stuff. I find the panelist-specific questions are key. Also letting your panel members know you don’t expect them to answer every question is a huge help. Personally I like to have a prep call about 5-7 business days in advance, and then I send them the questions or likely questions shortly after the call. Keep it up David!

  4. David- I like your thoughtful approach to putting a robust list of questions that you can pull from. I’m also a big fan of mixing up the format. As the moderator, you are uniquely positioned to take a poll at the beginning, ask the audience to connect with a few of their peers/use technology to crowdsource the questions, do a lightning round with the panelists, etc. Unless you think those things through in your preparation, chances are you are going to follow the traditional format. And audiences like a few surprises here and there!

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