Panel presentations are a core content format in the B2B marketer’s toolkit. Whether you’re bringing in external subject matter experts, hosting a conversation with top customers, or showcasing internal stakeholders’ expertise, panel conversations create an engaging dialogue with your target audience.
That said, moderating a panel of speakers can be tough – staying engaged, keeping the discussion going, asking questions, managing slides, inserting questions from the audience … and the list goes on.
BrightTALK’s platform has powered over 100,000 talks to date and our marketing team hosts several speaker panels every month. We’ve gathered a collection of best practices over the years to help simplify the process of moderating a panel presentation.
1. Determine session details
Before you reach out to any potential panelists, you should clearly establish the purpose of the session. Be sure to determine specific details, including:
- Create an attention-grabbing title for your session; this is the single largest factor in whether or not someone decides to register for a webinar. An interesting title will also help entice panelists to participate.
- Write a brief description of what the webinar will cover. Along with the title, the abstract is another key driver in webinar registration. It should answer five key questions: who, what, when, where, and why.
- Draft a loose outline to inform speakers of the order of events and to make sure everyone is on the same page.
- Prepare a list of questions to pose to panelists during the webinar. This helps speakers get a sense of how they should prepare for the live event.
2. Recruit relevant panelists
- Seek out panelists whose experience relates directly to the topic at hand. Social networks (especially LinkedIn and Twitter) are great places to find potential speakers with relevant backgrounds and interests.
- When recruiting panelists, send them the title, abstract, outline, and questions; this shows that you are prepared for the conversation and excited to have them on your session. When sending the questions, ask which ones they feel comfortable answering. As the moderator, this will help you shape the conversation and balance speaking time appropriately, and it gives speakers the opportunity to opt out if it isn’t the right fit for them.
- After you’ve recruited a strong panel, organize a dry run before the live day. This helps everyone familiarize themselves with the technology, their fellow speakers, and their role on the panel.
- Be sure to send the panelists a link to the session and give them ample time to promote it within their networks. Take advantage of this huge benefit of organizing a panel session and empower your speakers to drive new and different audiences to your content.
- More info: How to Write Strong Subject Lines for Webinar Email Promotions
3. Set yourself up for success
- Good front lighting is extremely important when you’re presenting over webcam as it brightens up your screen and enhances audience engagement. Play with overhead lighting and lamps for additional brightness.
- Enable ‘do not disturb’ for all notifications so you won’t be distracted during the session.
- Join the presenter portal 10-15 min early with the panelists to ensure everyone’s audio/video is working correctly. Test any additional assets like slides and video play-in prior to the presentation.
4. Nail the introduction
- Be sure to prepare an introduction for the first few minutes of the session so you start off on a strong note. Check out our tips: The Perfect Two-Minute Webinar Opening.
- Lightly introduce/recognize everyone on the panel in the first minute of the session, then go into housekeeping items.
- When hosting a webcam panel, always look at the camera (green light), that way you are looking directly at the audience and it eliminates distractions as you focus on your content
- Begin your presentation with an introduction slide on the screen (or, even better, bring in a customized b-roll video) and then shift to the webcam view of the presenters’ faces. This allows for a smooth transition and less of a shock for the audience as the presentation starts.
5. Share a few ‘housekeeping’ updates
- Reassure the audience that the session will be available on-demand so they can come back to the content if they have to leave during the live session or want to review the topics covered.
- Remind the audience to ask questions and give them direction on where they can share their questions throughout the session.
- Explain which relevant attachment links and downloads you included, and show the audience where they can find them.
6. Set the stage
- Get the audience on board and excited by sharing the high-level structure of the session. Break the core topics into chunks and highlight how much time will be spent on each section.
- Let the audience know what they will learn during the session and give them a way to get in touch if they want to keep the conversation going.
- Review how you will handle Q&A. Some moderators prefer to answer questions throughout the session, while others reserve time at the end.
7. Engage with the speakers
- Avoid asking the same question to everyone – it gets boring. Ask one question to a panelist and then reframe or offer a different question to others.
- Try not to be too predictable with left/right questions; go around the ‘room’ and play with the order and types of questions you ask.
- Do the double-tap approach: Ask a question and then follow up with a probing question with this same panelist. This way you can really dig into their perspective.
- You don’t have to validate every single response. Instead, try the newscaster response method. Simply go right to the next question instead of always agreeing or saying they have a great answer.
- Remember that webinars tell a story. A panel is much better if you can bring audience questions in as much as possible. It makes the audience feel included in the conversation.
8. Manage the logistics (slides / video play-in / screen share)
- Do get ahead of yourself. Think through the flow of how you are going to shift through different experiences, including the webcam view, slides, screen share, and video play-in. It takes time and multiple clicks to shift views, so prep everything in a non-presenter screen so you can be ready to click right over.
- Use double screens if possible. This way, you can leverage one screen in presenter mode and the other one can be the destination for screen share, notes, and any other assets you need to utilize during the presentation.
- Remember that screen sharing will show your mouse cursor so leave it on the screen that isn’t being shared.
- More info: Video Play-in for Talks
9. Land the closing
- A strong closing is just as important as the intro. Prepare in advance so you know exactly how you are going to conclude the session. Leave your audience with a closing call-to-action.
- Thank the presenters for their time and expertise. Remember to pause because each panelist will likely respond when you express your appreciation. Then, thank the audience for tuning in on behalf of your company.
- After a strong and crisp closing, be sure to firmly click ‘end presenting’. Send your panelists a thank you email with some insights on viewer engagement and questions!