How to moderate a panel or webinar like a pro (part 3)

During a conversation about moderating over on LinkedIn, I was asked how you avoid’ a sluggish’ webinar or panel event.

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And it’s a good question. It is really easy for people to log off a webinar if it isn’t holding their attention.

Whether it’s online or in person you want to be associated with an an event people talk about in positive terms.

The best webinars and panel events are when there is a lively discussion and an engaged audience.

Obviously, having a cracking topic and panellists is a key component, but that doesn’t guarantee your event will go with a bang.

So what can you do to try and inject energy?

An engaged panel

I’ve noticed over the years that the more relaxed the panellists, the better the discussion flows. If they are really nervous, they may talk quickly or clam up.

There is always an element of nervousness to start with, so the quicker you can get the panellists ‘warmed up’ and into the flow the better.

I mentioned in How to moderate a webinar like a pro (part 2) some techniques for helping moderators combat nerves – and the same can work for panellists.

Make sure your panellists are prepared, understand the format and who the audience is.

As a moderator, that ideally means a pre-event conversation so the panellists can get to know you and each other and feel part of the planning process.

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How to moderate a panel or webinar like a pro (part 2)

In How to moderate a panel or webinar like a pro (part 1), I talked about pre-event preparation; in this post, I’m going to give some tips for what to do once you are in front of an audience.

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Webinar: Lights, camera, action

If you are joining a webinar from home, make sure you have sufficient lighting so that people can see you properly. Sitting with your back towards a bright light or window will throw a shadow over your face.

Position your camera so you can look directly at it; it looks more professional and is more engaging for the audience if you are looking directly at them from the screen.

If you have a standing desk, then moderate standing up as this will give your voice a bit more energy.

Dealing with nerves

It can be nerve-wracking speaking in public.

Your heart starts racing, your hands might shake and, if you are like me, you talk faster.

Remember to breathe and consciously slow down your speech a little. It not only has a calming effect, but it gives you a bit more thinking time. It can help you feel more in control.

And if you appear calm and in control, it will help the panellists feel calm.

Set the scene

As a moderator, you run the ship; you are guiding the panellists and audience through the discussion.

Continue reading “How to moderate a panel or webinar like a pro (part 2)”

How to moderate a panel or webinar like a pro (part 1)

If you have been asked to moderate a panel or webinar, preparation is key to ensuring the session goes smoothly.

Here are some things to think about and questions to ask before the webinar to help you prepare.

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What is the purpose of the webinar and who is the audience?

This is an important starting point because it will steer the questions you ask or choose from the audience. And understanding the audience is also important for knowing when to ask panellists to clarify or explain something in more detail.

What is the format?

As the moderator, once the event goes live you are the captain of the ship which means you need to keep things running smoothly. To do this you need to know the order of proceedings.

For example, are there presentations and in what order, is there a poll or polls and what is the timing of those? Will the audience get the opportunity to ask questions and when?

There is more tech to think about on a webinar so you may need to mute at certain points or switch off your video for presentations.

Continue reading “How to moderate a panel or webinar like a pro (part 1)”

Panel events: Are you creating an echo chamber of views?

Many years ago, I chaired a roundtable on the future of business parks.

A business park developer, an agent who leased business park space, an architect who designed business parks, and a business park tenant took part in the discussion.

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There was lots of excited conversation about what the business park of the future would look like, what facilities it would have and how it would be used.

The occupier wasn’t joining in, so I asked what they thought of the suggestions. What they said stopped everyone in their tracks.


The tenant – the business that may or may not lease space in the future – didn’t want most of what was suggested.

Instead, they reeled off a list of what they did want from a business park.

I used to regularly chair panel discussions for the magazine I worked for.

Curve ball panellist

They were great generators of content and brand awareness but what made them really fly was when there was a ‘curve ball’ panellist.

There would be a range of people on the panel representing different sides of property development. However, the best discussions were when there was someone whose experience was different from the rest of the panellists.

An outsider.

One example was a discussion about economic growth in a particular region. Four out of five of the panellists were from the area and one was not.

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