How to be a great panel moderator

Recently, I have attended a lot of events with panel discussions. At one event, I watched 8 panel discussions in a day. As the day wore on I tried to analyse what separated the good, the bad and the ugly!

Moderating the panel at the Spotlight on Japan International Women's Day event Photo Credit: LIFE14
Moderating the panel at the Spotlight on Japan International Women’s Day event Photo Credit: LIFE14

Based on my own experience as a moderator, I’ve created 9 things you need to do as a successful moderator of a panel. What have I missed?

1. You need to have a plan

What is this panel for?

An entertaining way to spend 1 hour?

Killing time before the final keynote – probably you have bigger dreams that that!

Just as with a presentation, you should think in advance of the key takeaways that you want for the audience. You might not get them all as you will always have an element of spontaneity in there with different conversations on the day.

Think about:

What are the key takeaways you expect from this session? How does it fit into the overall flow of the event or the panel series you are part of ? How do you expect your session to run? How will you allocate time on each topic. You need to share this plan with the panelists and event organizers ahead of time to make sure expectations are aligned

2. You need to think about the audience needs

As the panelist, you are the representative of the audience on the stage. It is your job to think about the demographics and what would be the most useful takeaways and discussion points. How much do people know about the topic at hand?

For me, a great moderator will help to break the fourth wall.
They can engage the audience needs either through a Q&A or directing comments to the room. They have gathered information about what the audience wants to know rather than what their personal interests are.

Personally, if I know the panelists well, it can be interesting to build them up by saying why they were chosen to participate, what you expect them to bring to the panel 

Reading out the bio is generally a waste of time as most conferences have a literate audience who can check it out if they are interested.
Opening with a few minutes of general comments around the theme can be useful but it is easy for this to become a static talking heads round robin so be sure to watch out for that.

Connect and engage with the panelists – Listen and Enjoy

3. You need to connect with the panelists

Ideally meet the panelists before the event – face to face is great, virtually is also fine! And this meeting should not be 10 minutes before the panel. Find out if they have been on a panel before? What are their expectations and how are they aligned with yours?

It is great to go through questions or themes with them. Pick up on interesting stories that show diversity of thought and experience.

As an audience member, it can feel wonderful to be a fly on the wall in a high-level conversation that flows naturally. As a moderator you need to work to develop that camaraderie with panelists before the event.

Be careful not to take the camaraderie too far though. At a recent event, I felt like a voyeur as the conversation was too intimate, too many in jokes. It almost felt like the two speakers had forgotten we were there!

4. You need to build a connection between the panelists

Can you get the panelists together beforehand? Can they collaborate on a call or a shared document? The litmus test of a great panel is when the panelists are bouncing ideas off each other, listening and building on the previous persons statements.

I’ve seen panel discussions which were a series of 10 minute PPT presentations with no interaction between the speakers and no building on the ideas raised. It’s fine to have that format for speaker presentations with lots of short speeches but don’t advertise it as a panel discussion!

5. You need to be inclusive

Is everyone speaking? How much airtime are they getting? the bigger the panel, the less people speak. Melissa Thomas-Hunt did interesting research on who speaks in meetings. With 5 people in the room, 2 people will speak for 70% of the time. When 8 people are in the room, 3 people will speak for 67% of the time. As an inclusive moderator you need to manage this. At a recent conference, I saw one speaker so completely dominate that one of the other panelists was staring at the ceiling, totally disengaged!

Airtime in meetings

In terms of inclusion, are different opinions and approaches being given airtime? Having controversial and diverse approaches supports audience learning and brings some zest to your panel.

Make sure the staging is so that you can make eye contact with everyone. Is there someone who you suspect will dominate the conversation?
One idea comes from the old adage “keep your friends close, keep your enemies closer”

This can allow you to give them a nudge if they are going on too long. If you must share a microphone, you can even hold it so they have to ask for it! Beware though if they are sitting next to you, it can be easy for them to turn their back to you and not read your non-verbals. Be ready and willing to politely interrupt and give space to other people.

6. You need to be passionate about the subject

As the moderator, you need to drum up excitement and set the tone for the discussion. Bringing your own ideas to the panel is fine but “know your place” – you are not there as the only expert. You are there to bring the expert ideas to light!

However, keep your questions precise. Big lead ups where you show your passion and knowledge and then ask multiple questions, only complicate issues for panelists. KISS!

7. You need to be able to think on your feet

If you are going through the motions and sticking slavishly to your plan, you panel will feel formulaic. Listening and building on themes that become important makes a naturally engaging panel.

It is also important to know if there are any taboo topics that panelists or the event organizers want you to steer clear of. How will you handle them if they come up in discussion or in the Q&A?

8. You need to wrap up the key points

The moderators role is to make sense of the different ideas raised. You can do this after each theme or just in your concluding comments. What were the new pieces of information that were shared? What should the audience remember.

9. You need to finish on time

Make sure you have someone watching the clock for you and giving you time countdowns. It is absolutely fine to cut speakers, to guide when people go off topic.

You also need to keep your Q&A under control – reminders for single questions so more people can get involved is usually helpful. You may want to source questions before hand and plant people in the audience to get things started depending on your demographic. Remember to take questions from around the space and to be mindful of sourcing questions from a broad array of audience members.

I hope this has been a useful guide if you have a moderator role coming up!

Looking for a moderator or panelist for your next event in Japan? Feel free to contact me to discuss how we might collaborate.

Diversity Dojo: My Photo Album Workshop

201902 Diversity Dojo

As part of my Points of You® Master Trainer Certification, I am running a number of workshops around Tokyo to practice implementing the process with diverse groups.  (Contact me if you have a group of 10+ people and an event space as I have some new processes I need guinea pigs for!)

On February 4th, I was invited back to Diversity Dojo to use one of my favourite processes, “My Photo Album”. With participants from all over the world many of whom were meeting each other and Points of You® for the first time, it was a unique opportunity for people to hear truly diverse points of view and think about fresh ways to address current challenges. I love this workshop as it allows groups to be creative, and for individuals to practice inclusive leadership. The process helps you to open your mind to every single voice and idea in the room. You can make new connections between ideas and see your issue from many different perspectives. It is these new perspectives and connections that drive innovation.

 

 

Thanks to everyone at Diversity Dojo for their engaged and active participation. This group is always very open to trust the process and thus had many “unexpected but precise” insights. I look forward to hearing about how they turned their insights into action in 24 hours, 1 week and the next month.

Contact me to try “My Photo Album” to engage your employees in a new approach to problem solving.

Finding your Ikigai as an English Speaker in Japan

Points of You® x Ikigai: Finding your Ikigai as an English Speaker in Japan

“Ikigai” is the Japanese concept for living a life of purpose.
As an English speaker in Japan it can be easy to feel that your options are limited.

However, after a healthy amount of navel gazing in 2015, I realised that it is possible to do what I love, what I’m good at, what I can be paid for and what the world needs! My life has changed beyond measure – I have more joy, more fulfillment, more moments of flow and more financial freedom.

Now I’d like to help you to discover your Ikigai in a three-hour workshop using Points of You® and a follow up online 60-minute coaching session.

What is Ikigai?

Ikigai Image

The term ikigai compounds two Japanese words: iki (wikt:生き) meaning “life; alive” and kai (甲斐) “(an) effect; (a) result; (a) fruit; (a) worth; (a) use; (a) benefit; (no, little) avail” (sequentially voiced as gai) “a reason for living [being alive]; a meaning for [to] life; what [something that] makes life worth living; a raison d’etre”. (Wikipedia)

Read more about it
The Little Book of Ikigai: The secret Japanese way to live a happy and long life (Mogi) or Ikigai: The Japanese secret to a long and happy life Hardcover (Garcia, Miracles)

 

What is Points of You®?

Points of You® is a creative tool for individuals and groups, a tool developed to stimulate creativity and inspiration. Born in Israel, already translated into 19 languages
and widely used in 147 countries all over the world. In the Ikigai Workshop, you will use the “Faces” tool and in the online follow up coaching you will play The Coaching Game Online.

Who is Jennifer Shinkai?

Jennifer Shinkai is a certified Points of You® Trainer and regularly uses the tool in individual coaching, group workshops and facilitation. Her clients are global professionals working in diverse teams. Points of You® enables them to communicate complex and complicated ideas smoothly and gain insight into themselves and their team. With almost 20 years in Japan, she launched her own business in June 2016 after discovering the power of Ikigai! Read her full bio here.

When and where is the workshop?

Event Timing: Friday, September 21st, 2018 13:00 to 16:30
Doors Open: 12:30
Event Address: Smart Partners K.K., 4-22-10 4FL/A Kotobashi, Sumida-ku , Tokyo, 130-0022

How much is the workshop?

Investment: ¥20,000 (plus 8% Consumption Tax) via PayPal or Bank Transfer

Includes: 3 hour small group workshop in English, 1 hour online private coaching session to be taken within 30 days of the workshop. Light snacks, tea and coffee will be available at the workshop.

Payment and registration deadline: Thursday, September 14th, 2018 Midnight

Who is the workshop for?

English speakers living in Japan who feel that “something” is missing in their professional experience but can’t quite figure out what that missing thing is. The group workshop will help you to discover your ikigai and the private online coaching will help you to turn the insights into action,

Minimum Attendees: 3
Maximum Attendees: 8

How do I register?

Sign up below on the google form