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.

Why I’m Leaning Out

After 5 years of moderating a monthly Lean In Circle, I’ve made the decision to “lean out” at the end of the month.

For the record, I’m not leaning out because of Michelle Obama, or as part of the pushback on Sheryl Sandberg and her role at Facebook. I’m leaning out because I want to focus on other things (Integrating Ikigai, Points of You), other communities (running club, Spartan Race). Like any leadership role, I feel like I’ve learned what I can learn and I’m ready to transition into something new – a new level of Leaning In, shall we say?

So what did I learn in the 5 years?

1. Are you still learning? If not, move on

I’ve written in detail about my own Lean In journey and reading it now that the decision is made, it is all crystal clear. I was starting not to look forward to every meeting. Sometimes, I felt like I was starting to just dial it in and that was not respectful to others. As soon as I announced I was leaning out, it was like a weight had been lifted. There is also a sense of grief – to give up something that I did love so much and was so tied into my identity.

But sometimes you need to realize that you have graduated from the role, the relationship or the situation. And then, move on.

2. Women do help women

I’ve heard a lot of discussion about women holding other women back, being catty (urgh! What a gendered word!) and competitive with each other. I feel I have been fortunate in my career to only have support from the women around me. (Now I am thinking that maybe it is because I was the bitchy one… I hope not!)

In Lean In Circles, I had an amazing group of peers who only wanted me to achieve my goals. Was it because we all came from different organizations? There was certainly no zero-sum mindset in the room.

It could be because as an all female space, we did not need to resort to association or advocacy based covering. This is where minority groups downplay stigmatized parts of their identity in this case –  avoiding contact with or not sticking up for other women.  We see it when a female leader does not want to be involved in companies D&I programs. It is not because she does not think they are helpful (although that may be part of it!) but, by drawing attention to herself as a woman, she may increase the potential for negative bias.

Women do help women.  A female only space can be a useful place for women to develop confidence and speak openly about their goals and challenges.

3. Fixing the women doesn’t get more women in leadership roles  – fixing your succession planning does

The women who join Lean In Circles are talented and passionate. Each month they share their successes and I see each one of them is growing personally and professionally. And yet, when I announced that I would be leaning out, I wasn’t exactly bombarded with offers to take on moderation of the group. This despite the fact that every regular member contacts me to say thank you and how much the meeting means to them.

This was a failure of my leadership. I did not develop a pipeline of successors. I didn’t earmark people and give them time to get involved.

I thought that I was making it easier for people by taking everything on myself. If I do it all, I reduce the barrier to entry for people to attend. But what I created was a black box – what does it take to run this thing? how does she do it? I became an accidental diminisher of the people in the group.

Fixing the women doesn’t fix the problem of getting more women into leadership roles. You have to fix the leaders to make sure they are taking action about succession and casting the net across all the talent available.

4. Saying “No” to leadership is not always about saying no to leadership

However, on the other side of the coin about Leaning In, I saw a number of women who are strongly creating boundaries, not feeling the pressure to take on extra roles in their already full lives. So instead of assuming that women don’t want to take on leadership roles, how about we look at what they prioritize instead?

In your organization this can be about looking at the other roles that women are expected to take on in the home. Make no mistake these gender-defined roles are alive and well in Japan. And the stereotypes come both from women and men’s expectations of what should be done and by whom. Even as a feminist, I find myself taking on without questioning the roles of being the first port of call for the school. I say it is because as an entrepreneur I have more flexibility in my calendar but I believe there is something deeper going on from a place of bias.

Women are not always saying no to leadership roles because they lack confidence in their competence. Sometimes its just a feeling of overwhelm of the mental burden of wearing so many hats and having so many responsibilities.

——————————————————————————————————————————-

Finally, I’d like to say a big thank you to our venue sponsors who enabled us to keep the meetings free with no barrier to entry. It is very tough to find free meeting space in Tokyo but these organizations supported monthly meetings en world Japan, Michael PageDale Carnegie Japan and Smart Partners K.K

Want to find out more about where you can Lean In?

If you would like to get involved with Lean In activities in Japan, you can connect with the following groups

Lean In Tokyo – Active Japanese language group and the Country Chapter Leader for Lean In in Japan

Lean In Japan Entrepreneurs – will be run by Katheryn Gronauer of Thrive Tokyo

Lean In Tokyo Girls on Fire – taking a hiatus until late summer/ early autumn  but you can request to join the group.

Linked In for Entrepreneur – Lean In Japan Entrepreneurs Circle – July 2018 Event Report

Ah SNS! Which platform? How to optimize? What’s the best SNS for my business? Content marketing is essential as an entrepreneur and at the July 2018 LeanIn Japan Entrepreneurs Meeting we had a deep dive session hosted at LinkedIn Japan’s Tokyo HQ.

3

Kaoru Jo and Sayuri Nishimoto from LinkedIn Japan showed us how much Linked In had changed. Whilst yes, of course, there is still a recruitment aspect to the platform, it is taking off as content network where entrepreneurs can build credibility and connections. 2 Million mostly bilingual members in Japan is a great niche to be part of.

It was also great to hear about the Women@LinkedIn initiative helping female professionals in Japan to extend their careers after childcare leave. Very much aligned with the work of the Lean In Japan Creating Change Chapter and the Diversity and Inclusion programmes I run as a facilitator to empower women to develop their careers in Japan.

Main Takeaways

1. Content Creates Connections

There is now 15X more content than job posts on the LinkedIn Feed. Use articles, bilingual posts and be active and helpful in groups to build your credibility. Find out your SSI to know how well your LinkedIn Profile is helping you to sell.

2. Lots of New Linked In Features

LinkedIn Video, Nearby feature and LinkedIn is perfect for networking in Japan. #hashtags also work really well on LinkedIn now!

3. Answer the Public

Not sure what to talk about? Be useful and find out what people want to know about your expert area

4. Check before you delete or accept

 

Most Circle members had received invitations that were completely “random” and sadly sometimes far from professionally appropriate. Before you accept or delete, think about (or even ask directly) what made this person reach out to me? How can we mutually support each other?


Are you an English-speaking  female Entrepreneur in Japan?

If you are an English-speaking, Japan-based female entrepreneur who would like to grow your business, apply online at Lean In Japan Entrepreneurs Circle.

Meetings are held monthly, online on weekday mornings with occasional  hybrid face to face/virtual meet ups in Tokyo.

Upcoming Events

We’ll be taking a break for August but back on from September – date to be announced

 

How to Balance Careers and Caregiving in Japan – Event Report

Another conference I’ve attended several times in the last 19 years is the biannual FEW Japan Careers Strategies Seminar. 2 years ago I presented about Online Personal Branding drawing on my experience in marketing and recruitment. This year for the 20th CSS I moderated a panel on “How to Balance Careers and Caregiving in Japan”.

Originally, I was asked to moderate a panel for “Working Mothers”. However, I’m a huge advocate of getting to 50/50 when it comes to balancing careers and caregiving so I set about finding a working father to join the panel. I am grateful to all the people who recommended potential male panelists who are taking an active role in raising their children as part of a dual income family!

Photo Credit: The very talented TopTia

On the day, we represented a broad cross-section of industries, backgrounds and family situations, showing that there are many ways to manage your family and career. We had an active dialogue with the audience in an intimate setting. The panel covered diverse topics from which values drive our priorities to practical hacks that enable us to lead from those values. By telling our personal stories, we hoped to inspire other people to think outside the box.

Main Takeaways

1. Ask for the help you need at work

It’s more expensive for most employers to replace an experience team member than it is to accommodate your needs. Use your internal network to get the support you need, even (especially?!) when it has never been done before. Persevere and be open to different solutions

2. Know what is important to you

Mindful decisions and conversations about priorities with your key stakeholders (partner, employer, children) are essential. Weekly meetings, project management style whiteboards, shared calendars and a financial plan are ways these parents bring their business savvy to their home.

3. Outsource, automate or compromise

Non-iron shirts, automatic toilets, AI in the home, online groceries, no washing on a weekday, cleaning help and other creative hacks will help you to focus on priorities.

 

Recommended Reading

A great resource to consider the benefits to all stakeholders of dual income families is “Getting to 50/50: How Working Parents Can Have It All” . A good mix of statistics, anecdotes and practical ideas.


Sharing Points of You® at the Japan WIN Conference 2018

The Japan WIN conference has a special place in my heart. In 2016 I joined at a special rate for “women in transition” as I was moving from 12 years in a corporate role to begin working on my calling, my ikigai, to use my energy and passion to help people create and communicate change as part of diverse teams. It was at the event at the Shangri-la that I handed out my new meishi for the first time and as I delivered my self intro to over 100 people it can be fair to say that was a large amount of “fake it ’til you make it” tempered with a hefty dose of “imposter syndrome”.

When I realized that the speaker enrollment was open for the 2018 conference I decided that it was time to give back to the conference. thanks to my client testimonials I was selected as a workshop speaker and delivered a session “Rethinking your Strength: Shifting from Capability to Energy”.

Ever since I came upon Marcus Buckingham’s concept that “Strengths aren’t what you are good at. Strengths are what make you feel strong” during a Lean In Circle, I’ve been passionate about the power of doing what gives you energy. I also believe that we have more control about bringing this into our daily life than we may think.

In the 90 minute workshop, participants used cards from Points of You® The Coaching Game, Punctum and Faces to create their “Strengths Photo Album”. As always Points of You® delivered some “unexpected but precise” insights most commonly in hearing others describe their albums – a real view into the blind spot of the Johari Window.

My favourite comment from a participant was “I felt as if the scales had fallen from my eyes”. I have to say that for this to be achieved in 90 minutes makes me so happy as a facilitator and really impressed by how openly the delegates shared their hopes and dreams with others.

There were many great female role models at this event speaking with passion about their chosen topic and as always the Japan WIN conference was a great way to expand a network of like-minded people.

I was happy to see Steven Haynes back at the conference this year. I’m sure its the first time IBM Japan’s Conference  room has had a 100 person conga line!

40379065660_4579668185_o

Contact me if you would like to offer the “Rethinking your Strength: Shifting from Capability to Energy” workshop in your organization.

Hope to see you at the next Japan WIN Conference!

 

3 tips to help working mums after childcare leave

The first signs of cherry blossoms are here which also heralds the start of a new fiscal and school year in Japan. Working mothers around the country are getting ready to enroll their children in daycare and return to work.

Here are 3 simple tips that managers can implement today to make the transition smooth for you, your employee and your business.

 

Read more about working mothers in Japan

What it feels like to return to work after maternity leave – a message for managers

Retaining Working Mothers in Japan

 

Got high potential women in your organization that you want to support?

Rethinking Strengths: Career Planning Workshop for Women

#IWD2018 #heforshe Tokyo – event report

#heforshe2018

 

You have to love an event that begins with a video of PicoTaro singing about Gender Equal Peaceful World.

With a focus on mindset change, March 8th’s #heforshe event for International Women’s Day hosted by PWC, Unilever and Bunkyo Ward brought many different ideas together.

Below are a few of the highlights  – my translations may not be word for word but the essence is correct, I believe.

Akie Abe, gave some unscheduled opening comments. Whilst Mrs. Abe is well know for her active support of her husband’s approach to Womenomics, her use of 家内 (“her indoors”?) to describe her role always rubs me up the wrong way!

Marin Minamiya shared her views on the power of a positive personal mindset and encouraged positive self talk.

I loved her single minded determination and hope that we can all find some of her strength when we find ourselves facing naysayers. For example when she said that she could not get the money for her expedition, she spent time writing to hundreds of sponsors until she was successful.

The 1st panel focused on so-called Japanese “ojisan” (middle aged men). The speakers had some refreshing views and ways to support institutional and individual mindset change. However, I came away with a sense that Yagi Yosuke’s comment about the importance of action over mindset change is the key. In the 2nd panel, a simple example of how to change perceptions gave me hope. Creating gender equality does not always require complex organizational wide changes, just simple every day actions can make a huge difference.

The final panel focused on unconscious bias. The complex audience reactions to the same photograph showed clearly how we all have blindspots and that we need humility and self-awareness to overcome them. To get your organization thinking about those blindspots, take a look at the Creating Inclusion with Appreciative Inquiry programmes (日本語)(English). Naoshi Takatsu of IMD also shared doom interesting data about transactional and transformational leadership. Women on average have stronger competencies in transformational leadership skills so organizatiions need to shift their thinking on what leadership looks like in the 21st Century.

Paul Polman, Chief Executive Officer of Unilever, gave the closing comments. He highlighted the economic, financial and social impreatives of gender equality. Mr. Polman shared the need to think about how to bring gender equality into your value chain. What are you doing at every level of your business to be #heforshe and bring about gender parity in the world?

 

How did you mark International Women’s Day this year? What will you do to reverse the slowing trend of gender parity and help Japan to rise up from the currently pitiful global ranking of 114th?

 

Glimpses of Mindfulness – Lean In Japan Entrepreneurs Circle – February 2018 Event Report

A sign of an engaging meeting where I am full engaged in the present moment  – a complete absence of event photos!

Ann- Katrin Van Schie, Lean In Japan Entrepreneur Circle member, and Holistic Wellness Coach and Yoga Instructor from At Ease, led 4 other members online via Zoom and face to face at Smart Partners K.K.‘s offices in Kinshicho. I managed to grab a selfie of the Tokyo attendees as we left!

2

We worked on simple ways to bring glimpses of calm into our day, to find special moments to reset. These are as simple as grinding your own coffee, to focusing on belly breathing, facial massage, use of aroma, using an app like Headspace and so on.

The Circle also discussed the TED Talk “How to Make Stress Your Friend”. The most surprising takeaway from the video was that stress can be seen as a sign of your body rising to the upcoming challenge. Your heightened adrenaline and awareness is your body adjusting to the situation. With this in mind how can you embrace stress as a positive?

Did you also know that stress releases oxytocin? I know! Isn’t that our happiness hormone? Mind blown! That is why we feel the need to connect with loved ones when we are stressed. Having a support group like a Lean In Circle has been a huge help for me to feel connected as a solo business owner. Who is in your support network?

Many thanks to Ann-Katrin for helping us to create ease in our busy entrepreneurial lives!


Are you an English-speaking  female Entrepreneur in Japan?

If you are an English-speaking, Japan-based female entrepreneur who would like to grow your business, apply online at Lean In Japan Entrepreneurs Circle.

Meetings are held monthly, online on weekday mornings with occasional  hybrid face to face/virtual meet ups in Tokyo.

Upcoming Events

2018 – 3/20, 4/19, 5/23, 6,21 (F2F), 7/17

 

Practice Patience Judo – Lean In Tokyo Girls on Fire February 2018 – Event Report

“Patience Judo”? What on earth is that?

In her book, Drop the Ball, Tiffany Dufu talks about its importance when you start to delegate tasks to others.

“We quickly grow impatient when things on our to-do list aren’t done the way we think they should be done.”

She shared the research that when men were asked to do the dishes by their partner, 30% “did it wrong” and 25% were never asked again!

Being able to create space for you to do the work that only you can do, requires you to let go of some control. It’s hard but necessary.

Personally, my challenge for delegation is not just about quality, but also about having things done on my time-frame. I recently created a holding list, “Waiting for DH”, for tasks around the  house which my husband is responsible for. I’ve given myself permission not to worry about them anymore!

1

At the February 2018 Tokyo Girls on Fire Lean In Circle, 10 professional women from Australia, China, Columbia, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, UK and US, shared our life hacks to get more of our goals achieved, rather than just ticking off items on our to-do lists.

It requires taking a good hard look at what you can do. Last year the Lean In Japan Entrepreneurs Circle covered the same material (Read the Event Report here). The main difference with this circle was really focusing on outsourcing and the need to train team members to be able to take on more responsibility.

We also celebrated a promotion, a first trip to global HQ, successful job change, Professional certification and a new baby. It’s always inspiring to see how much these women are achieving in their careers.

Follow Jennifer Shinkai Coaching on Facebook for up-coming event information.


 

Are you an English-speaking professional woman in Tokyo? Request to join our circle or follow Jennifer Shinkai Coaching on Facebook for up-coming event information.

2017/18 Meeting Dates
Generally held on the 3rd Wednesday of the month, 7pm to 9pm at Dale Carnegie Japan. Meetings are free unless otherwise stated.

2018 3/28, 4/18, 5/16, 6/20, 7/18

Would you like to join an English Speaking Lean In Circle in Japan?

Request to join the Lean In Japan Creating Change Chapter and we will set up a call to decide which circle is best for your needs.

 

Creating Inclusive Meetings with AI

Are you searching for ways to harness the innovative ideas of your diverse workforce?
Are you looking for an interactive workshop to mark International Women’s Day and increase collaboration across functions?
Would you like your team to experience a positive approach to solutions that allows different voices to be heard?

While many organizations in Japan are making efforts to increase diversity in terms of gender in the workforce, many companies feel that they are not able to truly leverage the unique views of the women they are hiring. The focus on the “what” and “who” of diversity, now needs to shift to the “how” of inclusion.

WinBE (Women In Business Empowerment) is a collective of three Japan-based
facilitators who are passionate about Diversity and Inclusion. In the month of March we want to help your company find more ways to harness the diverse perspectives of your women to inspire innovation.

What’s the workshop about?

In this three hour workshop, 10-100 of your employees can connect across divisions,hierarchies, gender and nationality. Using the Appreciative Inquiry approach they will create an Inclusive Meeting framework prototype that is unique to your organization.

Appreciative Inquiry is an asset-based approach to solutions that opens up your team to new ideas and perspectives. Workshop participants will discover how your organization can utilize existing strengths to develop further diversity and inclusion.

The workshop output will be a prototype design of ways that your organization can run meetings where innovation can be fostered. Meetings give voices to the diversity of thought, backgrounds and perspective. These meetings represent a different way to approach ideas and will move away from the status quo. As a follow-up activity, teams can implement in their work groups as a pilot program.

Who should attend?

The program is designed to be flexible in terms of number of participants with a minimum size of 10 and maximum size of 100. The facilitators can deliver in English and Japanese so can support an international audience. The workshop can be run across functions to increase collaboration and internal networking

Why March?

March is a busy time in many corporate calendars in Japan ahead of a new financial year as well as preparing for new graduate onboarding in April.
However, March also brings many different times when we think about women and their role in Japanese society.

We start with Hina Matsuri on March 3 rd where we pray for the growth and happiness of young girls. On March 8th , we celebrate International Women’s Day, a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. This year’s theme is #pressforprogress.And then on March 14th, there is White Day, where we repay the giri chocolates received a month before.

WinBE would like to leverage on this awareness. Instead of marshmallows and cookies, help your organization to empower your female employees to drive growth and innovation by creating meetings where multiple voices can be heard.

We are currently taking reservations for a limited number of workshops in March,
please contact Jennifer Shinkai for more information in English or Hiroko Shinoda for more information in Japanese.

About WinBE (Women in Business Empowerment)


WinBE is a collective of three Japan-based facilitators, Setsu Suzuki, Hiroko Shinoda and Jennifer Shinkai, who came together after meeting at the 2017 Global Summit of Women. As a trusted third party, we work with organizations in Japan to develop workplaces where high-potential female leaders can drive business results and contribute to innovation across products and solutions. With our backgrounds in coaching and global leadership development, we co-create solutions with our clients to develop inclusive workplaces.

We are currently taking reservations for a limited number of workshops in March,
please contact Jennifer Shinkai for more information in English or Hiroko Shinoda
for more information in Japanese.