Over coming weeks Collective Content will be publishing parts of the new e-book by our director Tony Hallett, Everything In Moderation – How to chair, moderate and otherwise lead events.
In the first of two excerpts this week we focus on the initial moments when a panel takes to a stage…
4. Intros, questions and flow
I’ve mentioned some of the things that happen in the hour or so immediately before any panel but there are a couple of other pre-intro boxes to tick before you get into your session.
You can tell guests in advance to make sure their phones are off – or set to stun (meaning muted). But it only really matters as they take to the stage. I can’t tell you how important this is. It’s obvious, you’ve heard it a hundred times before, but remember not to let it blight your panel.
“Cab for moderator” – I had never been a victim – either at an event or on TV – of interuptus by mobile. Then it happened, big-time. I not only had one panellist who had been difficult both in build up to the 45-minute session and in early exchanges but then his mobile rang. My excuse is that in the heated build-up (it was a prickly debate about efficiencies around 999 emergency services) I had forgotten the old “Mobile off now please people” mantra. Anyway, as his phone rang, I scowled and turned slightly red but at least did the decent thing – I moved attention away from him and his inside pocket-fumbling.
But that’s not the end. Lightning does strike twice. About five minutes later MY phone rang. As I tried to turn it off (at this point throwing it far away felt like about the most sensible thing to do), there were no diversionary tactics, no one covered. Everyone – audience, panellists, certainly the panellist I’d just been glaring at, looked at me. It lasted a while. It was a lesson well learnt.
So assuming you make it onto the stage, with your complement of panellists (even if that includes late substitutes – who of course don’t faze you in the slightest because you allowed for that happening), with them in the order you prefer and with their phones silenced, what next?