Panel discussions are a great way to pack a bunch of information in to a short time frame. The key to an awesome panel is the moderator. The moderator keeps a tight rein on the speakers, a close eye on the audience and a firm grasp on the topic.
5. Do your homework. You were asked to be a moderator because you are smart. This doesn't mean that you are well informed on the topic. You'll need to research the topic, preferably the history as well as where the industry is headed. Knowing a little about each panellists background is also a good idea..
4. Avoid dominating the conversation. Your job as moderator is to foster discussion between the panellists. Keep you comments short and your questions open ended. Aim for dinner table style discussion. Instead of asking the same question to each panellist, ask one person and let other chime in.
3. Don't let one speaker take over. This gets tricky if the loudest talker is also interesting, but differing opinions and ideas are more valuable than a presentation. Also, before the panel starts, be upfront that you will swiftly cut anyone off if they pitch their product.
2. Encourage audience participation, but not audience heckling. Don't interrupt panellist discussion to interject a question from the audience, but do look to the audience for questions in between your questions. One great question can take the panel in a whole new direction. Set the expectation of asking short relevant questions so audience members know that rambling sales pitches aren't tolerated.
1. Think about how you are adding value to audience members. They should be able to walk away having learned something new - whether it is five quick take-aways, one key learning or having witnessed two sides of an argument. As an audience member, anything less is really just kind of disrespectful :)