Showcase skills when moderating panels


The next time you moderate a panel of speakers or introduce a speaker at an event, use your stint as the master-of-ceremonies as an opportunity to showcase your communication and management skills. Here is a checklist to help you do so:

*Collect the bio or résumé of each speaker. Peruse books, articles or Web sites published by each of them.

*Prepare a brief welcome that underscores the importance of the event’s topic and its relevance to current events.

Your welcome should also preview the event agenda and mention the time allotted for each agenda item.

*Call the speakers. You’ll need to remind them of the event’s time and location; check the pronunciation of names; and exchange cell phone numbers.

Describe to each speaker the audience’s level and interests; review the title of each speaker’s talk and the talk’s coverage. Inform each speaker of his time allotment and the importance of staying within it.

Also, discuss with each speaker noteworthy achievements and activities mentioned in his résumé or bio and collect human interest anecdotes that will spice up your introductions.

For example, I recently moderated a panel discussion that included an author whose resume cited her recent appearance on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” During my pre-event discussion, I asked the author whether she thought Stewart had read her book.

She told me that questions Stewart asked her before she went on air as well as the fact that he did not claim to have read her book during her interview suggested to her that he had not.

So when I introduced the author at my event, I mentioned her recent “Daily Show” appearance. And I said, “If you are wondering whether Jon Stewart actually reads all of the books covered on his show, our next speaker can set the record straight on that” — a line that piqued audience interest.

*Write an introduction for each speaker that summarizes his or her most salient, relevant credentials. Keep each introduction lively and brief.

*Practice your remarks, preferably for other people or into a tape recorder, so that you will deliver them smoothly at the event.

*The day before the event, call the speakers again to remind them of the event’s date, time and location, so you can be sure they will show up.

*When your speakers arrive, remind them of the agenda, the order of their appearances and their time allotments.

Let them know that you will signal each of them two minutes before their time is up.

*Deliver your welcome and introductions enthusiastically.

When you introduce the speakers, hold up any books they have recently published.

*Keep the event running smoothly and on time by holding each speaker to his time allotment.

*After the formal presentations, open the question-and-answer session; ask attendees to keep their questions brief; and mention how long the Q&A session will last. Rein in rambling questioners by gently reminding them of your time constraints and asking them to state their question.

*Distribute event feedback forms to attendees.

*End the formal part of the event on time.

*If possible, make the speakers available for one-on-one questions from attendees.

*Thank the panelists individually and whole-heartedly for their event contributions.

*Review feedback forms. Note any valid suggestions that you should incorporate into future events. Also, tally the percentage of positive responses and save praising quotes.

Mention these percentages and quotes in the summary of achievements you will submit to your supervisor before your next annual review as well as in your résumé and future job applications.

Lily Whiteman is a public affairs officer at the National Science Foundation and author of “How to Land a Top-Paying Federal Job.’’ Her Web site is The views expressed in this column do not necessarily represent the views of the National Science Foundation.


About Author

Lily Whiteman is a federal communications expert and author of “How to Land a Top-paying Federal Job,” and a trainer of career advancement skills and communication skills. Her website is Ask your career questions by email to or by Twitter to @Lilymwhiteman.

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