Tips for online panel moderation

I had to scroll past a half year of my Facebook posts to find where I posted this on When Words Collide and then I had to scroll past half a year of WWC Facebook posts to post it here. But at least it will be more easily found the third time.

1. Put the next question you’re going to ask into the private panellist chat. This gives the guests time to think about the answer so there is no lull between questions as the brain has to fire up again from the downtime. It’s a bit of social theatre as you ask the question “for the first time” and they answer “off the cuff”, but there are no surprises.

2. Call the guest by name, clearly and slowly, and then ask the question. This is really important — They’re sitting in a room alone without any energy from the group to sustain them. Writers are an easily distractable group.

3. Alternate between who speaks first so every guest can have the first, easy answer and not just always have to think of what hasn’t been said.

4. Use your time management well. In a 50 minute session, there are only 5 minutes for introductions, 25 minutes of discussion, 10 minutes of audience questions and 10 minutes for final thoughts and promotion. Use a 20, 10 and 5 minutes warning.

5. If you’re not familiar with the topic, have 5-7 quick questions that can draw out the last 5-7 minutes in case the conversation falters. You can ask your presenters what are questions on the topic that they would like to be asked.

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