I recently moderated a social media speakers panel for the Wisconsin Publishers’ Production Club. Because of the club’s meeting structure, moderating the panel actually means you run the meeting for the day. It turned out to be a relatively easy task that amounted to supporting four great speakers.
Step 1 – Pick a topic that will resonate with the potential audience. In this case I chose social media networking. Many small and midsize publishers are realizing that they are media companies and the media delivery systems are changing. Another part of our audience, printing companies, also realize that media delivery is changing and while print is not going away it’s changing.
Step 2 – Pick speakers that know the subject mater cold and will bring in additional attendees. For the WPPC meeting I balanced seasoned professionals and some new young blood. Understand that the younger less known speakers selected both have great track records and I knew would come ready to entertain and inform the audience. I also knew that most of the speakers would promote the event via their own social media networks.
Step 3 – Support the speakers anyway you can. Anything reasonable (or even slightly unreasonable) they ask for, find a way to provide it. That’s the easy part of this step. The more subtle part lies in selecting the order for speakers to present. It’s your job as moderator to be the glue that holds the day together. Organize the presenters in such a way that the presentations build on each other and thus become more valuable to the audience as a combined message. Encourage questions from the audience or ask some yourself to keep the panel engaged.
Step 4 – have back up plans. Speakers will have to back out at the last minute for a variety of reasons. For this event I lost two speakers (one the day before the event). Fortunately, the first speaker lost I was able to cover for. (This is why you moderate panels in which you have deep subject mater knowledge). The second speaker was kind enough to provide an alternate who did a great job with only twenty-four hours notice.
When the day comes, have fun.
By following the four step plan above when the day of the event arrives you will be able to relax and have fun. I throughly enjoyed moderating the event for WPPC and look forward to being a speaking panel moderator again soon. It’s actually more work to organize a panel than plan for your own speaking gig but it’s more rewarding as well. First, I was able to help others obtain speaking opportunities. Second, I learned a great deal by listening to their presentations. As I listened, I mentally prepared brief comments to tie each presentation to the next for the audience during the breaks between presentations.
What do you think, does my four step speaking panel preparation plan make sense? Is that how you would do it? Please let me know in the comments. Also, if you would like to discuss having me organize a speaking panel for you next meeting please contact me here.