Amazing Moderator: How to run a panel

Being A Great Panel Moderator

Panels are often dull, uninspiring and not relevant to the audience. A lot depends on the panelists, but even then the moderator’s job is key. Your job is to be an “invisible hand” that makes great conversations happen.


Preparation Stage

1.Know the main aspects of the subject at least as well as most of the panelists so that you can steer the discussion.

2. Try and interview the panelists at least a week or so before the panel.

3. Prepare a set of possible questions organised by topic,

The best way to prepare this list of questions is to base them on panelists interviews and your research

4.Prepare your list of attention-uppers : 

  • provocative statements
  • Out-of-the-box thoughts,
  • observations ( to add fun)

If possible get the panelists together for a drink or a short meet up before the panel. The conversation will be more natural if they have “bonded.”

 Managing the Panel


Start Strong including a “Grabber” Statement

Share something about yourself

 Tell people:

Why they’re there

What’s going to happen – it’s very important tell them a bit about the format and the timing.

Now’s the time also to set out ground rules for the panel about time ….  So that we get to hear everyone we are going to ask you guys to keep your answers short and snappy and not more than 1 minute…..

Introducing the Panel Members:

Have a well-prepared short intro for each panelist or ask them to introduce themselves in thirty seconds. Make sure you know how to pronounce their names.

Current Position

Real Expertise

Something else interesting e.g fun fact

Managing the Discussion

As a rule you’ll never get through more than three broad issues in a single panel, so be careful not to try and cover too much.

Have an overall planned discussion arc so you are constantly monitoring where you are on the way to closing the arc, but be ready to manage interesting twists and turns.

Ask short questions and make clear statements. Questions should be short and direct. Who? What? Why? What about?

Visibly and audibly keep the panelists on track.

Be ready to encourage back and forth conversations within the panel.

Look at both the panelists and the audience. Look at the panel, ask a question, and then look at the audience. Do not continue eye contact with the panelists because you want them to speak directly to the audience, not to the moderator.

Summarize complex answers  in a way that makes sense, even if has nothing to do with their question.

Bring out the best in the panelists

Give them a few easy questions that they can answer well. For example, “What do you view as the most pressing issues of the industry?”

Extract good information out of the panelists by rephrasing, summarizing, or clarifying what they said.

Manage time

Take charge to be the audience’s advocate on time. Get the panel started on time, keep it moving, and get it done on time.

Try to prevent one panel member dominating the discussion. One of the best ways to do this is to set out the ground rules about time at the beginning.

So that we get to hear everyone we are going to ask you guys to keep your answers short and snappy and not more than 1 minute…..

But if you have to can interrupt politely by using one of these ways.

We need to honour our stop time….

I’d like to get x’s view on this 

That’s a really good point but …..

That’s interesting but …..

Moving on from this subject ….

Can I just say something here?

Can I stop you there for a moment?

Can I just butt in for a second?

Can I just mention something?

Can I just add something here?

Do you mind if I come in here?

Before you co, I’d like to say something.

Excuse me for interrupting but……

Excuse me for butting in but…..

Sorry for interrupting but….

Just a moment, I’d like to….

If I could just come in here. I think….

You could add “Sorry “before these – e.g Sorry, Can I just hear the other opinions on that ….

Audience Questions

You should always leave time for audience questions unless the panel session is so short that there is not time. Moderators should allocate approximately 20 – 30% of the duration of the panel to questions from the audience. Any more, and the audience will run out of high-quality questions. Any less and the audience will feel like it did not participate.

Just in case no one has any good  questions, always have a few good questions in your hip pocket. Or, even better, you could ask a couple of people who will be in the audience  to ask question in advance.



Roadshows – What’s the (non) Deal ?


Roadshows are when you meet fund managers, analysts and other investors and try to present your company and promote your stock. The indicators that it is working are that they:



  • Monitor your stock
  • Join future earnings and conference calls
  • Come to your presentations
  • Meet you next time
  • Buy your stock

Looks like the investors have to make all the running. So what do you have to do to invest in the relationship?

At a recent CFO forum on IR here the magic number for meeting investors was at least 3 or 4 times a year with 7 – 8 times a year being suggested.

That’s a lot of plane trips for the average overworked CFO. But these days Investor Relations means just that: Relations with the Company Leadership – like the great team I was working with this week. One handshake and you get it that they can do the job.

Ah the human touch. Greeting, Talking, Eating. Spending Time with real people in a room.

Investors in the largest institutions are no different to anyone else. Despite all our technological toys no human heart ever warmed to the glow of a laptop screen.

Fly, My Beauties. Make friends and relations.

How to Tell A Story

storytellingThese days, you cannot hope to keep an audience listening to you if you don’t include stories. Businesses are full of stories; how the product was designed, how the founders started, what the market wants ….. You just have to know how to tell it. Here is the essential guide.

  1. Plan your story starting with the takeaway message. Think about what’s important to the audience. The ending is the most important point of the story. This is the message we want to deliver, and the one that will linger with the audience.
  1. Keep your stories short for the workplace. Three to five minutes long is about what people can digest in today’s ADD world.
  1. Good stories are about challenge or conflict. Without these elements, stories aren’t very interesting. The compelling part of a story is how people deal with conflict–-so start with the people and the conflict.
  1. Think about your story like a movie. Imagine you are screenwriter with a goal to get your message across. The story has to have a beginning, middle, and end
  1. Start with a person and his challenge, and intensify human interest by adding descriptions of time, place, and people with their emotions.
  1. Be creative. A good story always has ups and downs, so “arc” the story. Pull people along, and introduce tension, just like in a fairy tale. (“From out of nowhere, the wolf jumps onto the path…”)
  1. Intensify the story with vivid language and intonation. Tap into people’s emotions with language. Use metaphors, idioms, and parables that have emotional associations.

Most of us have not told stories in front of an audience since English class in high school. So you will need to practice.


Warren Buffet’s Investor Relations


Warren Buffett explains investor relations using a couple of close relations – his sisters.
“When writing Berkshire Hathaway’s annual report, I pretend that I’m talking to my sisters.
I have no trouble picturing them: Though highly intelligent, they are not experts in accounting or finance. They will understand plain English, but jargon may puzzle them.
My goal is simply to give them the information I would wish them to supply me if our positions were reversed.
To succeed, I don’t need to be Shakespeare; I must, though, have a sincere desire to inform.
No siblings to write to? Borrow mine: Just begin with “Dear Doris and Bertie.”
And just in case the Sisterhood detect a whiff of sexist bias let me add that this works for any Tom, Dick or Harry as well.

The New Boy/Girl

 How To: Introduce Yourself to a New Team


All beginnings are hard – so the saying goes. It is tricky to start any new job,   but moving to a new organisation  must be one of the most challenging    things to do in your working life. No one likes being the new boy/girl. You    know less about the place than the most junior person there about the day-   to-day stuff ( what do I do to get my laptop mended?) , you  inherit a team    you do not know and people who went for the job and didn’t get it may feel   resentful.


  • Be aware that emotions may run high particularly when people are brought in from outside the organisation.  Try to understand what your team may be thinking and feeling. This is a big change for them.
  • The organisation should do their best to set you up for success. Have your boss/ colleagues/appointment committee do an email intro and then introduce you personally the first time you meet the team.
  • Think what message your appointment is meant to convey and let that be a strong theme of how both the organisation and you  introduce yourself to the team.
  • Do not use first few team meetings to say how you are going to change things.Use the time to establish credibility and make connections!
  • Show humility and mention the existing achievements of the organisation, their previous boss and –  most importantly  – the team themselves.
  • Introduce yourself in terms of your values – both personal and professional and the achievements of which you are most proud.
  • Gain credibility by giving your strategic view of the industry and the company within it.
  • Despite everything, there may be conflict in the first year after your appointment. Stress from the start your approach is one of open and honest communication.

Look forward!  Do the above but then remind yourself that there will be a point six months from now – when you will be old news and things will be working well. 


You Heard it on the Radio – how not to bore in online meetings

The key to communication in an age of too much information is to remember how folks used to do things in the old






This is what Susan Fisher and David Lavenda call   “looking back to look forward”  in their series of Fast Company articles.

Take online meetings and conference calls – or rather don’t take them because you will be on mute. This article explains what we can learn about doing it better from the old masters of talking to people who are not there – the past stars of radio.


“Sorry, I was on mute. What did you say?”

If you had a dollar for every time you’ve heard this in conference calls, you’d likely have retired years ago.

Online meetings are excruciatingly painful, riddled with bridges that don’t work, dropped calls, and people talking over one another.

So how can we do it better?

The answer might come from a century-old technology.

The need to connect with people who can’t see us was precisely the problem experienced by the early pioneers of radio. Radio was essentially a form of conference calling. The best radio announcers knew their audiences like friends and spoke to their audiences with charm, brought them close, and gave them a feeling of belonging. They were “reaching out” years before the term became fashionable.

Radio networks were not slow to realize the power of the radio, and they harnessed that power in the words, in the cadence, and in the music of speech.

That is just precisely the way we should run our online meetings. Here are six techniques taken from the world of radio that are guaranteed to improve the ratings of your online meetings:


Prepare to talk about things that interest your audience and address them as individuals. Think about your audience and talk to them in a way that takes into account their place (culture), personality, and preferences. Also, like a good call-in radio program, ask questions and make the call interactive.


Take the advice of the U.K.’s most popular mainstream radio broadcaster, Terry Wogan: “We’re not talking to an audience. You’re talking to one person and they’re only half-listening. It’s a mistake to think that everybody’s clinging to your every word.” Single out people on the call by name to keep them engaged.


Since you can’t see important gestures and body language on calls, all you have to go on is voice. Bring people close with your voice. Alistair Cooke had the knack for this. The veteran reporter presented “Letter from America,” his 15-minute radio broadcast, every week for 58 years between 1946 and 2004. Sir Harold Evans said of Cooke, “He unfailingly read his words into a microphone in such a beguiling manner it was as if you and he had just struck up a friendly conversation.”

The big secret is to treat people as if they are in the room with you; for example, talk about the weather, celebrate birthdays, or chat about real life. Speak with a smile in your voice; people will feel it.


A club’s collective memory, past experience, and shared rituals is what keeps its members coming back. This was one of the secrets that made people tune in to serialized radio programs week after week.

For today’s online meeting, create the feeling of a club by announcing who is present at the beginning of the call, welcome each member, introduce them, and add a few words about what each participant brings to the meeting. Create shared rituals, such as starting and finishing with a round of “greet and go.” Introduce weekly features to help build culture and common values. The best sign that this is working is shared laughter and a busy chat window.


Your job is to skillfully entertain, inform, and involve an audience you may never meet in person and convince them that you care. Garrison Keillor, presenter of the long running, much syndicated Prairie Home Companion, said “I feel obligated to do something for [my audience], just as you would be obligated to clean your house and make food if you had friends coming over.”

Compensate for not being able to see their body language, habits, and mood by listening hard. Remember the 1-2-3 rule for talking about tricky situations; namely, for every fact you mention, you should talk twice as much about the solution and three times as much about the relationship.


Remember, there is a huge gap between your colleagues putting you on mute and the total audience immersion of FDR, about whom Halberstam wrote, “If he was going to speak, the idea of doing something else was unthinkable.” Somewhere in that vast ether you can find your radio voice. And then, people may listen.


Managing Good ( ish ) Virtual Team Meetings

People don’t really like virtual team meetings.  The runaway success of this video makes that clear and the criticism has been a long time coming.

There are things you can do though and they are all connected to how real people like to communicate.

1.   Set ground rules for how your meetings are going to run.

2.  Ban the mute button at times when you want to get a real discussion going. You cannot hear laughter if everyone is on mute!

3.  Start and finish important weekly meetings with a “Greet and Go” ritual where you check in with everyone.

4. Accept that different timezones mean that people may be working from home. It does not matter if you can hear the kids
playing in the background. That’s life as much as work is.

Check out this advice and more from a Harvard Business Review blog article on the subject..

How To : Great Online Meetings

 How To: Great Online Meetings

The day to day reality of global cooperation, virtual teams and remote management is the online meeting. Just the pinging of the “has joined the meeting” chorus is enough to drive anyone crazy. So what is the answer? Less is much, much more: less of these meetings and keep them as short as possible. Like most meetings you get out what you put in, but the  key is to act as if people really are sitting in the room ……..

  • Start in the way that sets a good mood in the room.

  • Act as you would if they were in the room:  chat about real life, talk about the weather, ask people how they are – GIVE OF YOURSELF!

  • Show rather than tell  – use interesting slides, infographics and pictures.

  • Compensate for not being able to see everyone’s body language, habits and mood by listening hard and asking questions.

  • Let people know on chat a couple of minutes before you call on them to speak.

  • Remember the 1:2:3 FACT: FIX: FEEL rule for  online meetings where there is a challenge or conflict to discuss.

         For all the facts you mention, spend twice as long talking about the fix and     three times as long talking about how people feel about it .

  • Stand up if you are running the meeting. Your higher energy levels will be felt.

Online Meeting Coaching

The best way to improve your online meeting technique – particularly if you  have to present or lead these meetings – is to get some online coaching in the subject. Sessions are One-to-One Sessions of one and half hours each SIGN UP FOR A FREE HALF HOUR TASTER SESSION BELOW!!

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