Archive for February, 2010

Tips For Running a Brilliant Speaker Panel

How often have you attended a conference only to sit through poorly managed panels featuring speakers with interesting bios that should have been more effectively engaged by moderators?

I’m at a morning conference listening to potentially interesting people participating in a few poorly moderated panels. Here are a few tips for moderators running panels based on events I’ve organized and joined as well as a conference series I organized for a former blue chip client.

1. Creative. Creatively title the panel. Come up with something that captures attention and draws audience.
2. Pre-interview Panelists. A week prior to the panel, speak with participants by phone to determine their strengths and weaknesses, competencies, and relevant success stories and methodologies you can point to during the panel. Determine questions you might ask panelists from this pre-interview, and during the live panel, draw from a list of these questions.
3. Avoid Lengthy Intros. Rather than turn intros over to panelists who will likely waste valuable time regurgitating bio elements that are usually in print, write a script that excerpts 20 seconds of pertinent information from each speaker’s bio, and get that out of the way quickly so you can get into the topic of the conference.
4. Manage Time. Make sure you manage your time during the actual panel so that you can make it through your questions in ways that engage every participant. If one participant speaks too long and delivers information that is off topic and puts your plan in jeopardy, be proactive and politely cut off the speaker. You’re doing this for everyone’s benefit.
5. Interactive. You are managing time. Make sure the panel is interactive. Ensure that everyone has a chance to speak, and encourage cross-talk.
6. Q&A. Leave some time for audience questions at the end.
7. Twitter. Set up a hashtag (#) for the panel (i.e. #panelname) that folks can use to tweet questions, and announce it at the start of the panel. You might find some potential questions and useful comments from these Tweets from attendees during the panel and incorporate these into the discussion.
8. Inspire. Drive personal energy through the session in ways that inspire the audience.

What are your ideas?

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