Wednesday, February 11, 2015

My effort to reform the panel discussion, starting with the moderator

Panels, in my view, are often dreadful or just plain boring. One reason I like attending the speechwriters conferences I go to in the UK and Europe: They won't include panel discussions. And that's happening all over, an indicator of how awful the form has become. Yet few take the time to get the panel ready for success, let alone to meet the conflicting goals of organizers, speakers, and the audience.

Despite that, all eyes turn to the moderator, the person who's rarely trained for this special speaking task, but is expected to be a magician, nonetheless. Even an experienced speaker like Guy Kawasaki says, “Moderating a panel is deceptively hard--harder, in fact, than keynoting because the quality of the panelists is usually beyond your control.” That's why I'm excited to present my first public-speaking ebook, The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panelsnow available for purchase in a wide variety of ebook formats for just $3.99. It may not be a dramatic topic in public speaking, but it's one we face over and over again in the course of our careers as public speakers. And there's no reason we can't do it better.

Call this my little effort to reform the panel then, starting with the moderator. There's no magic involved, just planning and preparation. But in this ebook are many ways to help you meet the goals of the panel while staying in charge of the clock, the speakers, and the audience. I have checklists and questions you can use again and again as you plan and prepare, as well as tactics to pull out of your back pocket during the panel. I'd love to think you'd have this ebook booted up on your tablet or smartphone as you moderate, your back-pocket coach.

Here's what the book covers:
  • What it means to be a moderator: The job description. What are you really responsible for? 
  • 7 types of moderators: Variations on the job description, from bland to complicated.
  • How moderators relate to others' roles in a panel session: The organizers want one thing, the speakers want another, and the audience has its own expectations. Where does the moderator fit in?
  • What to ask when you're asked to moderate: Questions to ask the organizer, and questions to ask yourself that are both logistical and philosophical. 
  • 9 reasons to turn down an offer to moderate because not all moderator gigs are worth it.
  • What to do before the panel outlines a preparation process you will carry out with the speakers and the organizer in advance of the event.
  • 5 last-minute tasks for moderators, or that list of things you should do right before you head for the stage.
  • Better panel introductions, an area where moderators can shine--but often don't. Here's how to change that, and make speakers adore you.
  • Moderator muscle: The one tactic you'll use over and over again is a simple but effective solution to most of the problems moderators face. Start using this, and you'll notice the difference.
  • 13 ways to keep speakers on time. Moderators struggle with this, but there are many tactics you can use--some in advance, and some on the fly.
  • Smart ways to interrupt speakers, because you will need to do this from time to time.
  • Moderator moves: Gestures and movement helps you think through how you'll handle the physical aspects of moderation.
  • Creative panel themes offers ideas you can propose to the organizer and share with the speakers in advance to make the discussion livelier and original.
  • Creative lines of questioning does the same for your questions to the panel. Have these in front of you when you moderate.
  • Graceful ways with Q&A helps you manage the dance going on between the speakers and the audience. Both of them look to you as a partner. Find out how to do the dance gracefully.
This ebook grew out of some posts here on The Eloquent Woman, but most of the book contains new material not published before. It offers checklists and questions you'll want to refer to every time you moderate, as well as practical advice for how to negotiate your role and the discussion.

Some early comments and reviews:
  • Emily Culbertson: Denise Graveline has been my go-to guru for advice on all manner of public speaking issues. Now she has written this ebook and shipped me a copy, and I am here to say that it. is. awesome. Give it to the moderator in your life!!!!
  • Joan Kornblith: I'm pretty good at this already...but I picked up Denise Graveline's book before Folk Alliance International, because I want to be better! 3.99, can't beat it! Especially great for new moderators...it isn't as easy as it looks!
  • Julie Landry Peterson: Kudos Denise Graveline! I know a lot of people who could use this e-book, whether as moderators themselves or even just planners of good conversations.
I hope you'll read the book and pass along the information about it to conference and panel organizers you know. Go here to order your copy today! And if you've read it, I'd appreciate your reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.

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