BY KRISTIN ARNOLD, MBA, CPF, CSP
A six-point plan to prevent problems on your panel
MBA, CPF, CSP,
is known as the “Panel
She is an NSA past
president and on a
crusade to make all panels
lively and informative. For more info, go
to Powerful Panels.com.
As a panel moderator, you are the audience’s chief advo- cate. If someone’s boring
you, then chances are they are boring
the audience as well. If you think they
are going on too long or not making
their point, you need to intervene.
The best way to do that, of course,
is to prevent the problem from happening in the first place. Then, when
a panelist or audience member “steps
over the line,” you can point to a prevention strategy or ground rule you
have put in place:
¢ Reinforce the topic/purpose at the
¢Alert speakers to the fact that all
time limits will be strictly observed.
¢Create a signal for them as they
come to the end of their time limit.
Sometimes, however, your best-laid plans
don’t actually go according to plan! When
you feel the conversation start to stray, use
escalating interventions, starting with the
lowest level intervention appropriate to the
situation. If that doesn’t modify the disruptive behavior, kick it up a notch to the next
level intervention. Here are the six steps:
o DO NOTHING. You always have the
option to do nothing and see if the situation resolves itself. However, if you let one
person run over, you penalize everyone else.
o E YE CONTAC T. Shoot the o;ender a
glance when his time is almost up or he is
making inappropriate or irrelevant comments. Confidently check your watch.
o MOVEMENT. Raise your hand, move
toward them, show a cue card, tap your
pencil, or ring a bell.
o REDIRECT THE CONVERSATION.
There are several ways to do this. You
can change up the questions, restate
or reframe the question and direct it
to another panelist, rephrase the statement into something more relevant, or
condense a panelist’s answer when it is
too lengthy. You could also try calling
on someone in the audience who you
know has similar issues and ask if what
was just said jibes with them. Other
tactics to try:
¢ Gently interrupt and assure the panelist that you can return to discussing “X”
later in the panel if there is enough time.
¢Interject at the end of a sentence or
while the panelist is taking a breath.
¢ Ask for one conversation at a time when
panelists are talking over each other.
¢ Transition to the next topic when the
topic has been covered enough.
o REMIND THEM. You can subtly
remind the disrupter of the rules you set
out at the beginning by reinforcing the
ground rules or restating the time allocated for the comment. You could also:
¢ Refocus on the topic.
¢ Reinforce a key point.
¢ Announce the time remaining for the
specific section of the panel.
oCONFRONT THE DISRUPTER.
This is the highest level of intervention.
In my experience, you will rarely climb
to a confrontation—unless you have a
jerk on your panel—as long as you place
prevention strategies in place and escalate your interventions appropriately. If
it becomes a necessity, though, appeal
to the disrupter, cut o; the speaker, or