How to Be a Great Panel Moderator
Got your social strategy off the ground? Want to draw more attention to it? Consider increasing your business's profile at an industry conference. Even if you aren't ready to keynote, you might consider getting your feet wet as a panel moderator.
A moderator hosts a panel of experts, asks leading questions and sets the context for discussion. It is a low-maintenance but strategically important position. Jeff Sass has written a piece on what makes a moderator great. His tips (partly gleaned from Jeremiah Owyang and Guy Kawasaki):
Talk as little as possible. Keep in mind that this isn't about you; your audience needs you to extract "insights of value," surrounding a theme, from the experts. Think of your role as an offline community manager.
Meet with panelists prior to the discussion. Meet with panelists at least 15 minutes before the event to ensure everyone is clear about the structure of the discussion—and to double-check that you have their names and titles straight.
Sit with panelists onstage, don't stand apart from them. This makes the conversation feel more natural and keeps the public's eyes from darting back and forth.
Take notes on index cards and bring them with you. Index cards keep notes subtle. Keeping them with you makes it easy to flip through ideas to keep the flow of conversation going.
Listen for conversational cues. Sometimes a more interesting discussion than what you planned comes up! Follow that thread and keep the momentum going.
Be mindful of time. Cut people off when you have to; a segment of the panel should be reserved for taking audience questions, and that must be respected. (Talk to panelists and conference organizers about how much time should be set aside for Q&A.)
The Po!nt: Guide a discussion or two. How you manage experts in public is a great illustration of how you're managing your own social scene. Show your fans you have the savvy to keep conversation flowing—online and off.
Looking for great social media marketing data? MarketingProfs reviewed hundreds of research sources to create our most recent Social Media Marketing Factbook (May 2010). With 140 pages and 102 charts, it is full of relevant social media marketing stats and trends. The Social Media Marketing Factbook is Part 5 of the complete Digital Marketing Factbook (our 296-page full report).