Arrive Early Make sure Murphy isn’t lurking in any
corners. Check in with your interviewee and do a walk-through of the room, microphones and slideshow. Meet
briefly with the panelists to go over the agenda and
ground rules. As a talented speaker, you probably do this
already, but a reminder never hurts.
Keep the Conversation Moving If you have
prepared the interviewee appropriately and kicked it off
well using a few good questions, the conversation will
start to flow on its own. Encourage the interviewee to
comment on particular parts of other speakers' statements.
Be flexible about following the natural conversation path
as long as it is interesting and the audience is engaged. You
may need to interject here and there to keep the conversation moving at a brisk pace by asking follow-up questions,
probing deeper, making bridges between ideas, connecting
the dots, stirring the pot, playing devil’s advocate, catching contradictions, testing the unsaid, shifting gears, creating transitions, and intervening firmly and respectfully to
get them back on track.
Stay Attentive Always be uplifting and engaged in
the conversation. Bring positive energy to the stage. Compliment the audience and interviewer and don't forget to
smile! Never cut them down, even if it’s to get a laugh.
Shift to Q&A Announce that you are shifting the focus
to the audience and how you are going to take questions.
For “live” Q&A, create some ground rules to keep the
questions from being too long-winded. For example,
“Start with your name and your question first, and then
share one or two sentences to clarify.”
Create a Queue If several people
raise their hands, start with the first per-
son and establish a queue that lets the
audience know who will go next. Then,
follow the queue. If you have a hard
time remembering the order, write it
down or enlist someone to help you
keep track. Try to hear from everyone
who has a question before you return
to someone for a second turn. You can
even offer that you are looking for
new faces to chime in before you put
a repeat questioner back in the
Use Callbacks Your biggest oppor-
tunity for humor is to use “callbacks” where you mention
something that has already been said. Listen to anything
that happens spontaneously in the room that causes a
laugh and look for clever ways to bring that word(s) back
up or into the things you say. Callbacks make it fun for the
audience and make you look like a genius!
Don’t Wait Until the Last Question When a
few hands remain, or you are close to the end time,
announce that “this will be the last question.”
Put a Bow on It Let the audience know that the
program is ending by saying “We’re almost out of time . . .
and here are a few key things to wrap up.” Then,
summarize the discussion (or have your interviewee
share the one thing they hope the audience remembers)
and any other announcements such as opportunities
to extend the discussion beyond the session, final
announcements, and conclude with heartfelt thank-you’s,
gifts and a round of applause.
Palmer concludes, “Clients are increasingly asking
for this type of service. Sometimes it’s not appropriate
(such as at the end of a highly motivational closing
speech), but don’t be afraid of suggesting it to your
clients—especially for small groups (less than 200)
and for break-out sessions.”
Kristin Arnold, MBA, CSP, is on a crusade to make
all panel discussions lively and informative. She’s
a professional meeting facilitator, keynote speaker,
and panel moderator with over 20 years of experi-
ence making meetings engaging, interactive and
collaborative. Contact her at www.PowerfulPanels.com.