like Connie Podesta, CPAE, and bundle
your keynote and breakouts with addi-
tional roles of awards banquet emcee,
auctioneer and panel moderator.
However, there is one caveat to the
panel strategy. As a panel moderator,
you must refrain from being the sage on
the stage to be the guide on the side. Be
warned: Not all speakers can do this
because their egos get in the way! You
must shift your emphasis from being the
expert on the topic to being the facilita-
tor of the process to ensure audience
members get their needs met through
the panel format and the panelists have
a lively and informative discussion that
provides real, concrete takeaways.
Many speakers believe moderating a
panel is easy. After all, how hard can it
be to ask a few questions and do an
audience Q&A? Yes, it looks easy if
you know what you’re doing, but many
moderators either don’t have the skill or
don’t prepare adequately. After all, being
a panel moderator takes a few different
roles and skills that you may or may not
have in your speaker toolbox.
Do you have potential to be a panel
moderator? Ask yourself if you excel if
you excel in the following six roles:
Champion for the Audience.
You make sure the panel is talking
about timely issues that the audience
cares about. Not what you care about,
but what they care about. You do your
homework, and you continually as-sesses and react to the audience during
the session, keeping the conversation
on track and meaningful for them.
You set the agenda, keep the discussions
on track, bring out differing opinions
and the most interesting information.
You balance panelist participation,
clarify any confusion and intervene
as needed—especially when someone
is dominating the conversation.
As you facilitate the discussion, you
probe beneath the surface, asking tough
questions of the panel, building the dialogue, keeping the conversation lively
and getting out of the way when the conversation is going well. You push the panelists to talk about specifics rather than
speak in generalities—without feeling
compelled to add your two cents.
Objective and neutral party.
At this point in the program, the audience doesn’t want to hear what you
have to say. They want to hear from the
esteemed panelists. As the moderator,
you need to withhold your own personal opinions and refrain from
showing bias or favoritism toward
any particular side, faction or person.
You make sure the panel starts and ends
on time and follows the time frames on
the agenda. You also ensure the panelists don’t spend too much or too little
time on any one single element.
You model upbeat energy and enthusi-
asm, working the room and engaging
the audience. You also inject a little
humor where appropriate to keep
If you said “YES!” to all six roles,
then offering to moderate a panel dis-
cussion for your clients may be a great
option for you. However, before you
hang out your “panel moderator” shin-
gle to the meetings world, make sure
you know how to moderate a lively and
informative panel discussion, under-
stand the specifics involved in moderat-
ing a panel (there are lots of moving
parts!) and build your facilitation skills
so that you can keep the panel on track
and intervene firmly yet respectfully.
If you think panel moderation is a
good fit for you and your business
model, add this service as a separate
line item on your fee schedule and
when the subject of fees comes up, tell
your clients that this service requires an
additional investment. Then, it’s up
to you how you want to negotiate that
value. Stick to full fee, 50 percent dis-
count or throw it in to tip the scales
in your favor—especially if the panel
comes right after your speech.
Your clients are looking for something extra, something that sets you
apart from others who have a similar
topic or style. They want speakers who
can do more for their group. Offering
to moderate a panel just might be
the difference between getting the
engagement . . . or not.
Kristin Arnold, MBA, CPF,
CMC, CSP, is a high-stakes
meeting facilitator, profes-
sional panel moderator
and past president of NSA.
You can find out more about what it
takes to moderate a lively and informa-
tive panel at www.PowerfulPanels.com.
“How hard can it
be to ask a few
do an audience