Sunday, April 23, 2006

How to moderate a panel discussion

I'm hosting a discussion on the topic of "Project Failure" at an IBM conference next week and have the tricky task of keeping a room of IBM WebSphere consultants under control.

I'm scheduling a call with a colleague whose opinions I respect in these matters and am perusing the web for ideas but thought I'd throw the topic open to my wise and generous readers.

Have any of you picked up good tips for successfully moderating panel discussions?

Comments, as always, are open.


GEB said...

Richard do you mean,
a)How can I make everyone listen and stop everyone talking simultaneously or
b)How can I get everyone to stop talking now and and listen to me? or c) something else entirely?
I'm going to offer some ideas for a) and b) which work for me in my job ( to be revealed later). I'm not sure if this advice will transfer to your situation but they will cause your meeting to be a bit different from the norm at least.
Problem a) Sit the group in a circle and give one person an object, such as a teddy bear, to hold when talking. Only the person holding the bear is allowed to talk. The bear is passed on to the next person and so on, with non contributors free to pass the bear along to the next person.
Problem b) In a loud,deep voice say 'Stop what you are doing and show me your empty hands!'The element of surprise should silence most people.You can then revert to your normal voice.

If things seem to be getting out of control burst into a well know song. Again the element of surprise should mean that the group may actually join in singing with you.

These methods always work with my class of very young children anyway. Good luck!

Richard Brown said...


I think I may also take some aprons, paint and easels for the slow ones to amuse themselves with at the back of the class :-)

Sarah Gershman said...

I strongly suggest meeting with the panelists beforehand to coordinate what each person is presenting on - so that it flows smoothly. Panel discussions tend to be the dullest when each of the panelists are isolated from each other. This is very hard for the audience to follow. I just posted on this very topic - I look forward to feedback and please let me know if I can be helpful. Good luck!


Richard Brown said...

Hi Sarah,

Thanks for the comments :-)