The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels by Denise Graveline - Read Online
The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels
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Moderating a panel is a frequent public speaking task--but one for which no one really prepares you. This step-by-step guide includes questions to ask yourself and the organizer, tasks moderators should do in advance and at the last minute, and specifics on how to keep speakers on time and on topic. Creative panel themes and lines of questioning, better introductions, and the secret to maintaining control over the panel will make you an in-demand panel moderator.
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ISBN: 9781483548074
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The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels - Denise Graveline

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Panel discussions are often dreadful. Maybe that's why everyone involved--the organizer, the speakers, the audience members and even the moderator--finds themselves praying for magic to occur.

If you’re the moderator, you already know that no one really teaches anyone how to moderate. You’re just supposed to magically have these skills. Everyone else thinks you’re going to be the magician. Organizers hope your reputation will magically draw more paying attendees, and that you'll be able to keep in line the talkative audience members and the long-winded speakers they felt compelled to book. Speakers think you can magically stretch the schedule to let them speak as long as they like, or that you'll make the audience and its pesky questions disappear. Other speakers, whose time has been chewed up by fellow panelists, hope you'll pull a solution out of your hat that lets them recover their original amount of time. Audience members trying to get in a question wish you could read their minds, interpret their quirky facial expressions, and notice their imperceptible hand movements, so you'll understand why you must call on them—even when time has run out.

Everyone involved secretly hopes that you'll surprise them with the ultimate magic trick: A panel discussion or conference that starts and ends on time and includes sparkling discussion and debate, engaged audience questions and plenty of time to complete satisfaction surveys.

If you've moderated panels, or just watched others do it, you can sense that desire for magic from moderators. Everyone wants the magician, the wizard, the sorcerer who effortlessly conducts, commands, and charms the speakers, the audience, and the clock. It only adds to the pressure moderators feel, unless they know how to prepare.

The yearning for magic from moderators is so great that I nearly called this book Moderator Magic. But that would be over-promising. The truth is that good moderating doesn’t involve magic at all, and you’ll only be disappointed if that’s what you’re hoping will happen.

As a speaker coach, speaker, and frequent moderator myself, I know that to moderate a panel well, you’ve got to develop some muscles—the ones that flex to keep the panel moving forward and the ones that pull it toward a smart, timely finish. You can only get the moderator muscle you need with work and practice, just as with any other public-speaking task.

Even an experienced speaker like Guy Kawasaki says, Moderating a panel is deceptively hard--harder, in fact, than keynoting because the quality of the panelists is usually beyond your control. I hope this common-sense guide to moderating panels will help moderators, panelists, and organizers reach a more realistic and workable goal: An insightful, well-timed, engaging discussion on which we get to listen in and in which we get to participate.

Finally, this book was greatly improved by comments and edits from Becky Ham and Peter Botting, to whom I am very grateful. All the errors and opinions here, however, are entirely my own.

Denise Graveline


What does it mean to be a moderator?

The traditional definition says that you preside over a panel discussion among several speakers, serving as the authority in the room who starts and ends the panel, establishes a start and end to each panelist’s speaking, selects questions from the audience, and directs questions to particular speakers or to the panel as a whole. You may have been chosen in part for your own star value, in recognition of your position and your expertise on the topic, although you should not act as if you are another panelist. Instead, you are expected to use your expertise and position to help the audience make sense of what the panelists say, highlighting themes, asking difficult questions, and weaving the disparate speakers’ remarks together. You’re expected to know about the panelists and the