#43: How to moderate a panel

Talking Big Ideas.

“What the hell just happened?!”
~ Jesse Cox

What’s the most awkward thing you’ve seen happen during a panel discussion?

I’ve seen a moderator spend most of the session talking. I’ve listened to a panel that had no discussion at all, just boring monologues. I watched an audience member take about ten minutes to ask a question. But I’ve never had the pleasure of experiencing anything like this:

A guy [from the audience] stood up, no question, and simply told the story of how when he was young he lived on a plantation where the ghosts of slaves would fold his clothes. The room gets real awkward . . . there is a silent moment and then the hosts simply ends the panel . . . people get up to leave – no one acknowledging the guy’s statement and I’m just looking around . . . what the hell just happened?!

All of these awkward moments could have been avoided — or been significantly improved — by a skilled moderator.

Moderators play an integral role in panel discussions. As Cassie Koryrkov writes: “When panels go wrong, it’s usually because the moderator doesn’t know how to moderate.”

That’s why I’ve created a checklist guide for you. Look over it whenever you get asked to moderate. Share it with teammates whenever they’re asked to moderate.

With a little advance prep and focus, moderators will drastically increase the likelihood their panel discussions are a success.



Don’t let Ghost Guy, or anybody else, hijack the panel.


Bookmark our Checklist Guide for Moderating a Panel. The next time you or a colleague get invited to moderate, pull it up early and review.


I would love to hear your answer to my opening question:

What’s the most awkward thing you’ve seen happen during a panel discussion?

Please do share with me!

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