Archive for the ‘Panel Discussions’ Category

Facilitating a Discussion

In Essence of Speaking, Panel Discussions, Resources on June 1, 2009 at 11:10 am


The Moderator musn’t let ONE panelist

hog other panelists’ allotted time!

I have been a participant in many panel discussions, but it is quite different to be the facilitator. Here are a couple of accounts of facilitating when you are not involved in planning – just asked to facilitate.

I was asked to help out on two different panel discussions. The first one was at the last minute. The facilitator canceled. The format and the questions were already established for this hour-long panel and no time to prep. Here are some do’s and don’ts I learned from my experience:

  • Do watch the time for each panelist
  • Do have strategies ready to go to encourage panelist to wrap up
  • Do consider what would be interesting for the audience to learn
  • Do check in with the panelist – make sure they know how much time they have and the format
  • Do make the best of the situation
  • Don’t have the questions at the end for all panelist – too boring
  • Don’t let all the panelist have the same questions – tailor the questions to each panelist’s  area of expertise

One of the panelists was very charismatic and chatty and was talking much too much – I could not get in to interject. I finally had to walk up close to the table and look him straight in the eye. He got the point and made a joke and wrapped up.

The second panel I facilitated,  I  had a bit of time to plan other than the group of panelist was already established. I had no knowledge ahead of time what was each of their presentations. All I knew was that it was a Sex Tech Conference. The 3 panelists were all from different organizations discussing their method of sex education for 90 minutes total.

Originally, they were told to speak for 25 minutes each with questions at the end. I felt it would be more interesting to have the questions after each panelist – people are more compelled to ask questions right away rather than having to wait.  The panelists were flexible and open to my suggestions and said they could keep to the suggested time and format.

But things always happen……the elevator was backed up and people could not get to the 5th floor…..people were trailing in for the first 20 minutes. I started 10 minutes late to accommodate the elevator back up.  The first group had planned an overview of their program and a relay race for the audience. They had seven wooden models (woodys) and folks had to race to un-package, put on and lube seven condoms!  I was worried about the time.

With starting late and the first panelist’s relay race the panel discussion went really well and finished on time. The questions after each panelist was the way to go. I got some great feedback.

I consulted with one of my fellow Toasties ahead of time and reviewed a TM “Facilitating Discussion” manual – a little prep and planning was a big help for a successful discussion.