Tips for Speakers and Moderators
Courtesy of Pamela Thompson, Recruiter/Career Coach, Ideas to Go
PamRecruit@aol.com

 
The moderator's goal is to provide different views from informed speakers, to steer the discussion to a conclusion, and to present a summary of the session. These tips will help you have a more productive and successful exchange of ideas and opinions on every panel you are involved with.
 
Remember, the purpose of the conference is to provide guidance, help, and advice to people interested in computer graphics and interactive techniques. Please do not use the SIGGRAPH conference as a forum to promote your company.
 
Moderator Dos
You are an "idea traffic cop." Your job is to keep things moving, and to make the experience fruitful, productive, and punctual. To achieve these objectives, make sure the session goes and flows. That means:
 
1   BEFORE THE SESSION STARTS briefly "huddle" with your panel. Review with them how you will conduct the session.
 
2   Verify that:
  • Speakers are "miked."
  • Water and glasses are available for all panelists.
  • Name cards are in place for all speakers and the moderator
3   Have a watch and use it. At the start of the session, announce how much time each speaker will have for remarks, how much time will be allowed for discussion, how long the question-and-answer period will be, and how long the summary report will be.
 
Allow time at the end of your session for a summary report. Use your watch and make notes on a pad to track the elapsed time of the session so the schedule is adhered to. Use your pad to take notes for the summary report.
 
4   START and END your session on time. There are other panels scheduled after yours.
 
5   If the room is standing-room-only, identify empty seats and ask audience members to move to them. Encourage people to move up front, take places along the sides of the room, or even sit on the floor at the apron of the stage. Also, some seated audience members may use more than one seat for themselves and their stuff. If they do, request that they make a place for others. Conversely, if the audience is sparse, invite people to move down front to fill in empty seats.
 
6   If there are "housekeeping" announcements to be made (such as a change in program, the composition of the panel, or other necessary information) make these announcements early.
 
7   Introduce yourself by giving your name and company affiliation, the topic, the speakers by name, and their titles and affiliations.
 
8   Use humor if appropriate, but don't force it.
 
9   Make sure all speakers get a chance to contribute. If you are running out of time, you can cut the Q&A time in half, or cancel the summary. You MUST give all speakers an opportunity to participate in the session.
 
10   Allow up to 10 minutes for questions and answers at the end of the presentation. This period can be enormously rewarding to the audience.
 
11   IMPORTANT: When it's time for questions from the floor, there are a number of key points to observe:
  • Make sure the questions are questions.
  • Repeat each question, to make sure that you and the panelists understand it, and that everyone in the room can hear it.
  • Questions redirected "to anyone on the panel" should be redirected to ONE panelist who is most qualified to respond.
  • Ask questioners who consume too much time to take up their points with individual panelists after the conclusion of the session.
  • Ask any members of the audience who begin their own discussion to pose ONE question to ONE of the panelists and advise them that when they are ready, you WILL recognize them, one after the other.
12   It is a moderator's responsibility to present a summary of the panel. It is your job to absorb and organize the views expressed during the panel discussion and Q&A, and summarize the panel at the END of the session. Allow 3-4 minutes at the end of the session for your summary. Make sure to include only ideas and views expressed during the session.
 
Moderator Don'ts
1   Don't repeat material that has already been made available to the audience Brief biographies of the moderator and speaker are printed in the Program & Buyer's Guide, which all attendees receive, so it's a waste of time to repeat the information.
 
2   Don't allow an audience member to "make a speech." Interrupt, and ask the speaker to succinctly pose a question. Only accept QUESTIONS from the audience.
 
3   Don't allow your speakers to speak to each other across the panel's front. Remind them that all their remarks AND answers to questions should be directed to the audience.
 
4   Don't allow one speaker to "hog" the session. Ask the speaker to make ONE point and move on. The purpose of a panel is to afford opportunities for varying, and opposing, views. That means different viewpoints must be afforded an airing and that ALL Speakers should have a chance to speak out.
 
Panelist Dos
Prepare. All your years of business and personal experience must boil down to a few minutes of presentation. Therefore, in order to appear your best, and to contribute most to the discussion, you MUST take time, BEFORE THE EVENT, to organize your thoughts and to outline (if only mentally) what you will say. This is not a time to wing it. Organize your thoughts in advance, on a crib sheet, if necessary. Make a series of "bullet points" you want to address.
 
Keep in mind that no matter how many (or few) other speakers there are, your obligation to yourself, your company, and the audience, is to deliver a persuasive distillation of your point of view on the subject. Being a panelist is a tough assignment, which you can make a lot easier and far more productive for the audience if you remember these few suggestions:
 
1   Introduce yourself. The first time you have the floor say, "Hello, my name is Kearney Thompson and I am with the University of Southern North Dakota.
 
2   LISTEN to statements of the other Speakers. (You may want to agree or DISAGREE with what they said, and absorbing other points of view will enable you to incorporate them your response to a question from the floor.)
 
You may even want to take notes of what other speakers say, because citing these, or refuting them, will make your statements more interesting and effective.
 
3   Keep in mind the timetable that the moderator laid out at the start of the session. Do your best to stick to it. Follow the lead of the moderator. Be a team player and help by playing under the rules the moderator established.
 
4   Leave your ego behind. You're not auditioning or interviewing for a job. You are on the panel to contribute your views and opinions on the assigned subject. Do it objectively, and you will more than "earn your keep."
 
5   Treat your fellow speakers, the moderator, and the audience with respect. Your audience hopes and expects to learn and profit from your experience and wisdom.
 
6   If everything you planned to say has already been said, don't waste everyone's time by repeating it. Instead ask the moderator to pose another question.
 
Panelist Don'ts
1   No matter what your relationship may be with other speakers (bosom buddies or sworn enemies), keep personal elements out of the discourse. The point is to present and exchange views and for the panel to strive to reach some kind of consensus on the topic.
 
2   If you disagree with a statement of another speaker do NOT confront the speaker directly, "across the panel." Instead, wait for your turn in the summary at the end of the panel's presentation. (The same applies to replying to a question from the floor. Direct your response to the questioner, NOT to another panelist.) Speak up and into the microphone. Do not engage in cross-panel talk. You are there to inform the audience.
 
3   DO NOT introduce partisan opinions. For example, do not try to "sell" your or your company's position. This can introduce bias into the discussion, and it can be perceived as making a business pitch.
 
4   DO NOT make remarks about fellow speaker(s).
 
5   Don't be a "session hog." If another speaker refuses to yield the floor, it is up to the moderator to move things along.
 
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