How to Be a Great Panel Moderator

By Harvard Business Review
January 29, 2019

Here are four ways to lead a group discussion and draw out an insightful information exchange. 

As health care plays an increasingly important role in our communities, physician leaders might well find themselves asked to speak on panels related to their work. Sometimes, they might even be asked to moderate such panels.

Preparing to speak on a panel can be stressful enough, but it’s even more fraught when you’re asked to moderate one.

Here are four strategies to ensure that moderators create the conditions for an insightful exchange:

Prepare your panelists: It doesn’t take much — one pre-event conference call, a couple of emails requesting the panelists’ thoughts on the topic or sharing your draft questions in advance should suffice.

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Ensure a great audience experience: Moderators may need to cut off a long-winded panelist. One way to do this tactfully: Cut him off with a positive statement. Make a hand gesture and break in verbally, saying something like, “That’s a great point, Joe, and I’d love to hear how Mary would respond to that.”

Wield your power: Too many panel moderators take a hands-off approach. For example, they’ll “toss out” questions to the entire panel, without specifying who should respond. Instead, direct your questions to the person who will have the most relevant answers. That requires researching the panelists in advance. If Panelist A says something incendiary about tech founders, and Panelist C launched a startup last year, don’t wait for Panelist B to respond just because it’s his “turn.” Follow the action and direct the conversation.

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Be an interlocutor: When panelists say something interesting or confusing, jump in with a follow-up. “Tell me more,” you could say, or, “Can you explain that in more detail?” This steers the conversation away from the panelists’ talking points and into more fruitful territory.

Copyright 2019 Harvard Business School Publishing Corp. Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate.

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