Four Rules for Panel Moderators

After a huge number of years serving on panels – and gracefully bowing out of moderator duties since I never quite got the hang of it, I finally have the process nailed. I did not figure this out myself. I was just lucky enough to end up on Constellation Connected Enterprise 2021’s panel on Brain Machine Interfaces, moderated by Diginomica’s co-Founder, Jon Reed.

Prior to the panel, he emailed the rest of us to share his biases on doing the moderation thing. I’m quoting:

“- I keep intros very short, I don’t read biographies of panelists, the time for discussion is too precious. 

“- I am biased towards involving the audience early and often. We will engage them much better if we are relevant to their moment. 

“- I believe the spontaneous moments of insight and productive disagreement are much more important than prepared remarks. Going with the live flow is what gives a panel a spark.

“- I like to strike a topical balance between three things: inspirational ideas, issues/concerns/ethics, and actions that attendees can use in their careers/lives/projects. I often like to follow this type of overall flow, ending on things that attendees can apply in their own lives.” 

And, of course, he reminded us of the virtue of brevity, something I require on a regular basis.

The result was amazing. I didn’t have to memorize anything (another of my very weak points), and best of all, didn’t have to jockey for position, because when you’re rolling with the whole room, the point is that you listen and learn – often the most unexpected things – and your reactions are spontaneous. 

I caught up with Jon as he was rushing off to his next big thing, but he left me with this universal truth: “The people in the audience are as smart as the people on the stage.” And that, dear reader, is equally true of you. In fact, you are likely much smarter, especially about the things that are most important to you. I hope you will share them with me.

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