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Panel presentations consisting
of two or more talks on a topic are a popular vehicle for communicating information.
The panel moderator, the individual who coordinates this type of presentation,
is critical for ensuring its success.
The effective panel moderator
has two main objectives: making sure individual speakers are prepared, and that
the speakers collectively deliver a cohesive presentation that meets overall
program objectives. The following guidelines will help moderators meet these
objectives. Individual tasks have been divided into those that should be completed
before and at the event.
BEFORE THE EVENT
- After reviewing information
on the event, sponsoring organization, and attendees, determine the purpose
of the panel presentation. Focus on how it fits into the theme of the event
or program. Identify three or four main points individuals should learn by
attending the panel presentation.
- Invite individual presenters
based on the following criteria: standing in the company or industry; ability
to speak on the topic, and complement (or counter, depending on the topic)
perspectives offered by other panelists and willingness to speak within the
designated time limit. The latter point is especially important, as many speakers
prove unable to limit their remarks to a set amount of time (usually, between
ten and twenty minutes).
You should offer individual speakers guidance on specific points or issues
you want them to cover in their talks. Sharing directions given to individual
speakers with all panel participants will help reduce the chance of repetition.
Emphasize to the speakers that blatant self-promotion or commercialism will
not be tolerated -- unless the panel itself is a demonstration of competitive
products or services.
It's also wise to identify at least two more candidates for presentations
than you have spaces on the panel, given that one or more of the individuals
you invite may be unable to participate.
- Once an individual has
accepted your invitation to speak, confirm his or her participation in writing.
Provide information regarding the day, time, and place of the panel, with
instructions on how they can get to the facility; the purpose of the event,
a schedule of other activities (including whether or not there is a meal function
to which they are invited as a guest of the sponsoring organization), and
a profile on attendees; panel objectives; the names of other speakers, affiliations,
and contact information; the length of time for prepared remarks; the amount
of time allotted to questions from attendees; and how they can contact you.
- Confirm spelling and
pronunciation of speakers' names, titles, and affiliations. Request biographies,
background information, and audiovisual equipment required, if any. Immediately
forward audiovisual requirements to the person responsible. You should also
communicate any special room arrangements at this time to the appropriate
person at the facility where the panel will be held.
In a large room, you'll want one microphone per speaker, plus one for you
and one in the audience that can be used during the question and answer session.
You might need only one -- or perhaps none -- in a smaller room. Seek the
advice of the person handling audiovisual requirements regarding what works
- After confirming individual
speakers and before the presentation, follow up to answer questions and, as
necessary, assist with presentation development.
- Ask if the speakers
will have materials to distribute to attendees. Before the event, review these
materials. You'll be able to incorporate this information into your introduction,
and confidently refer attendees to it if they have questions afterwards. Confirm
the quantity of handouts needed based on projected attendance, and notify
speakers. Request that they reproduce these items for the event, and bring
them. If this quantity is large, the speaker is traveling a long distance
to participate, or if the speaker asks, you should arrange to have handouts
copied by the sponsoring organization.
- Write your introduction
for the panel, which relates the panel presentation to the event as a whole.
You should answer two main questions in this one minute long introduction:
why are we covering this subject? Why should attendees hear about it now?
- Write your introductions
for the speakers. It's recommended that each speaker be introduced briefly
at the beginning of the event, then in more detail before the actual presentation.
The latter introduction serves as a bridge between the different speakers.
Your initial introduction should mention the speaker's name, title, and affiliation.
The latter, longer introduction (30 seconds maximum) should highlight the
subject of the speaker's talk, other expertise thatıs relevant to this subject,
and how it relates to material presented by the previous speaker.
- A day or two before
the event, call panelists to confirm time and place of a meeting on the day
of the event to meet each other and review panel logistics (see 2 and 3 below).
You also should tell them the order in which theyıll be speaking during this
ON THE DAY OF THE EVENT
- Check the setup of the
room, and make sure that microphones and audiovisual equipment work.
- Conduct a final briefing
with panelists. Review the flow of panel, speaking order, presentation length,
the timing mechanism (see 3 below), and the availability of their handouts,
if any. (Consult with the speaker on whether handouts should be left for attendees
when they arrive, or made available after the panel for those interested.)
Confirm availability of individual speakers after the conclusion of the panel
for one-on-one conversations with audience members.
- Time the individual
speakers. Establish a signal that informs speakers when they should conclude
their remarks. Depending on where the moderator is seated, this signal could
be a piece of paper pushed in the direction of the panelist or sounding a
chime or bell.
Emphasize to the speakers the importance of concluding their remarks within
the allotted time. Presentations that are too long may limit the time available
to other speakers, as well as the length of the question and answer period.
Neither situation is likely to win the appreciation of attendees.
- Introduce the panel,
as outlined in 7 above.
- Introduce the individual
speakers, as outlined in 8 above. After the initial speaker introductions,
inform attendees that complete speaker information will be provided before
individual presentations. Explain the format of the panel, including time
allotted for speaker remarks and the question and answer session.
- At the conclusion of
the prepared remarks, solicit questions. If a microphone is unavailable for
attendees to use, it may be wise to repeat questions. Be sure to take questions
from different sections of the audience. As much as possible, try to take
questions from new people before allowing someone to ask a second question.
If there are a lot of questions, encourage panelists to keep their answers
brief. At the appropriate time, announce that panelists will entertain one
or two more questions to signal that the presentation is about to conclude.
- At conclusion of the
question and answer period, thank the speakers. Mention that each will (or
won't) be available to answer additional questions immediately after the event,
or in the future. Return the control of the meeting to a designated event
official or dismiss the audience yourself, whichever is appropriate.
- As soon as possible
after the conclusion of the event, send thank you notes to the individual
panelists, event coordinator, and others involved in planning. For the speakers,
include feedback you received either informally from attendees, or that which
is relayed to you by the program chair that has received the evaluation forms.
(Copyright 2000 Mitchell
Friedman This material cannot be copied on any medium without express written
permission of Mitchell Friedman)
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