Here at Superstar Communicator HQ, I am all in favour of individuals being proactive, volunteering to be on discussion panels at conferences, internal events and trade shows is an excellent way to raise your visibility and credibility.
But what should you do if you are approached to chair a panel? Of course the Superstar Communicator™ in you should always agree – but check the topic and event first to ensure it is a good fit with your expertise and experience. This is what happened to one of my clients, who has recently been asked to chair a panel discussion at a prestigious conference within her business sector. It was a real honour to be asked and given the topic, he grabbed the opportunity straight away.
However, he reached out to me, to ask for my advice on tips to being a good chair. This is wise: we have all watched panel discussions where they have either been poorly chaired – so someone dominates the discussion, or one that has been really interesting for the audience; because it has been managed well. And audiences remember this: being able to manage a discussion panel with all the different characters – some of whom might have their own agenda, is an art in itself.
Here are my three top tips:
- Find out what the objectives of the discussion are from the organisers of the event. They might have a particular theme or specific topic they want discussed. On the other hand, they might not have considered it – and you might prompt them to do so!
- Find out who all of the panellists are: arrange to have a telephone/webinar conversation to discus the topic; let them know the questions you are going to ask. Also arrange a webinar call with all of the panellists just before the event, so you can meet each other online and agree on the questions so they can prepare.
- Setting some ground rules and boundaries are a good thing. Typical points could be the amount of time each panellist has to discuss a particular point; their introduction could be 5 minutes each for example. But ensure you have a clock to keep a check on timings.
I have plenty of other tips and exercises to assist chairing discussion panels and work with my clients on these. If you would like details of this mentoring service, please CONTACT me, or book a call.