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.



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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We use Skype, Google + or Webex. All you need is a computer and/or phone.

The Ultimate Guide to Mixing & Mingling

Hate walking into  room where you don’t know too many people ? Most of us do. Here’s how to turn you from feeling stuck into social glue!

Read the Room–Kindly

When you arrive at the event, survey the landscape and create a plan for how to work the room.

  1. Apply the 1-2-3 rule–people at events tend to congregate in groups of ones, twos, and threes. Approach the “ones” first. They are people just like yourself, shy to engage with others; they will be the most welcoming. Twos and threes are more difficult to approach but read on.
  2. Look for Twos Standing in a V Formation–when two people are standing in an open V formation, they are usually open to others joining their discussion. Avoid people standing directly across from each other; this indicates they are engaged in a closed conversation.
  3. Use the ballroom waltz trick for joining a closed group of two–follow this advice for “breaking in” to talk to someone you know. Approach the other person he is speaking to and ask permission from him to join. For an elegant example, check out how Ralph Feinne’s does this in the movie The English Patient in this video. (The action happens at 1:06.)
  4. Use the O or U Rule for groups of three or more–a group of people standing in a circle is the hardest to join. Look for groups arranged in a U formation.
  5. Be Genuinely Interested in the people you are talking to, in making the event go with a swing, in making connections.

All this is true for any situation – business or social. Take a look at the full event and networking article by David Lavenda and Susan Fisher published in in Fast Company .

Online Story Presence Courses

Learn How To Tell What’s Worth Telling

“People buy people” the adage goes. Yet many presentations lack the stories that make us.

In these online sessions we demonstrate the shortcuts to being really memorable through the stories you tell.  At its core is the belief that real leaders today entertain, engage and inspire by thinking about the events in their lives and organisations that need to be told.

being your brand; the room as your platform; energy; personality; buzz in the room; tough empathy;being memorable; revealing your differences selectively; stand out; change minds; fascinating insights; content that connects


Online One-to-One Sessions of one and half hours each



We use Skype, Google + or Webex. All you need is a computer and/or phone.

Session 1: Your Story

What you want to get out of these sessions

Why Story Works

Great Examples

Tips to apply immediately

Session 2:Your Style

Analysis of current style

Nice Guy, Technical Specialist, Control Freak or Dreamer?

Pushing your personal envelope – developing a more vital story style

Session 3: Creating Stories


How to create great stories

Using descriptors


What to leave in, what to leave out

 Session 4: Story Magic

Using the room as your theater

Engagement – how does it happen

Analysis of different impact of storytelling on the audience

Conveying your energy

Session 5: Killer Technique

Build ups


Machine Gunning

Attention Uppers

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Each session lasts 1 hour 30 minutes

One Session      USD 280.00

Five Sessions    USD 1100.00

Ten Sessions    USD  2600.00

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Our Top 10 Storytelling tips – in Fast Company!

Check out our 10 Top Storytelling Tips from Susan Fisher in this Fast Company piece by David Lavenda



Once upon a time, in a faraway kingdom, there was a salesman who traveled the countryside, peddling his wares. Everyone loved his product except the evil king, who wanted to do away with it. One day the king said, “This product is ruining my kingdom and I want to destroy it. If anyone has a reason for why this product should live, let him come hither and speak now.” Out of the crowd came a voice. “I think this product is great and I can prove it,” said the brave salesman. “Then come to my palace tomorrow morning and prove to me why this is so,” said the king. And so the salesman went home and prepared PowerPoint slide after PowerPoint slide filled with endless statistics and dizzying market projection graphs.

On the morrow, the salesman turned up at the palace. “Show me why I should spare your miserable product,” said the king. The salesmen opened his trusty laptop and started to plow through his heaping deck of slides. Starting with a company background, the salesman went on to show market trend graphs, customer case studies, and then analyst quotes. The king began to squirm on his throne. When a return on investment spreadsheet appeared on slide 47, the king finally had enough. “Off with your head,” said the king. “Originally, I only wanted to kill your product, but this presentation is criminal.”

Funny story, but you get the point. The point is a message was delivered using a story, not a statistic or an analyst quote.

Much has been written lately about the efficacy of storytelling in the workplace. Most of it is based on a general feeling that stories “work.” “Persuasion is the centerpiece of business activity,” says screenwriter Robert McKee in an HBR article entitled “Storytelling That Works.” “Trying to convince people with logic is tough for two reasons. One is they are arguing with you in their heads while you are making your argument. Second, if you do succeed in persuading them, you’ve done so only on an intellectual basis. That’s not good enough, because people are not inspired to act by reason alone.”

But there’s more proof of storytelling’s effectiveness than just anecdotal evidence. For example, studies carried out by Melanie C. Green and Timothy C. Brock at Ohio State University have empirically shown that people’s beliefs can be swayed more effectively through storytelling than through logical arguments. The researchers posit that persuasion is most effective when people are “transported” to another place using a story.

Recently I had the opportunity to sit down to discuss this topic with Susan Fisher, a strategic communication expert and principal at First Class. “People are always telling stories; why don’t they do it at work?” asks Fisher. “It’s because they have been taught that at work you use logic and slides and statistics; this seems more professional. Telling stories seems too emotional and possibly manipulative. So people stick to facts and numbers. But the truth is that real emotions always work better, because that is the way to reach hearts and minds, and also people get to see the real you. It’s authentic.”

While we are all intuitively storytellers, I asked Fisher to share some of her insights about where professionals most often need to focus when telling stories in the workplace. Here are Fisher’s top 10 tips for becoming a more effective storyteller at work:

  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.
  2. Keep your stories short for the workplace. Three to five minutes long is about what people can digest in today’s ADD world.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Start with a person and his challenge, and intensify human interest by adding descriptions of time, place, and people with their emotions.
  6. Be creative. Create a storyboard; draw it out, while listening to music or reading something for inspiration. 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…”)
  7. Intensify the story with vivid language and intonation. Tap into people’s emotions with language. Use metaphors, idioms, and parables that have emotional associations. (Note: For more on this, see Leo Widrich’s article entitled, “Which Words Matter Most When You Talk” and studies on intonation performed by Ingrid Johnsrude at Cambridge University).
  8. When using a story in a PowerPoint presentation, use appropriate graphics/pictures to convey your message. Stay away from text and complicated graphics. A single picture interlaced with emotional language will go a long way to convey your message.
  9. Most of us have not told stories in front of an audience since English class in high school. So you will need to practice. Tell your story in front of a friendly audience and get feedback. Gauge your pace, and take note of the story’s length and your use of language. It will be a bit rusty at first, but underneath it all, we are all born storytellers.
  10. The most important point is to make the switch within; because once you internalize that today’s “left-brain” communication style doesn’t work very well and you realize that stories are how people really communicate, you will find it a lot easier to proceed…because it’s authentic. And that is what really persuades.

Fisher also recommends signing up for a storytelling workshop. There are even workshops you can do online; find more information here.

Finally, in the words of Ira Glass, “Great stories happen to those who tell them.” So tell them…and live happily ever after.


A favorite enterprise software client had us in to inspire and empower their Sales Team and the whole company and boy was it inspiring !

Peter Maltz drew out the company’s strategy going forward while Susan Fisher jolted the whole sales team into giving the performance of their lives.

It’s a company to watch and we really enjoyed watching.