Why Events Should Have Panels and How to Make Them Not Boring

Why Events Should Have Panels and How to Make Them Not Boring

We’ve all been to events where the panels were crazy BORING, and each answer was scripted and robotic!

Many events that I attend as a keynote speaker are fixing the “boring panel” problem by removing panels altogether.

As a full-time keynote speaker, you’d think this would be good for my business, but let’s remember many of those panelists are executive leaders from big brands with popular logos that drive ticket sales for the event. Also, I feel there’s so much to value in learning from the practitioners and leaders. Still, sadly most aren’t trained or excellent at delivering that value in a keynote solo presentation form.

Interestingly enough, as much as I love being on stage, giving one of my keynote programs, I equally love moderating a panel or hosting a fireside chat. The reason, I find great joy and satisfaction in helping others tell their stories and facilitating dynamic conversations around trends and relevant topics. Beyond moderating panels, I’ve also spent many years developing my skills for interviewing guests in person and via video while also launching over 3k live video interacting with comments in what I call live participatory content.

Moderating, Hosting & Emceeing is a SKILL that Takes Practice

Moderating requires practice and a specific skill set, and just because someone is a great speaker or great panelist or the headline sponsor of the event does not mean they’ll be a great moderator. The need for dynamic offline events will only be increasing as we become more connected and technology-dependent. Event ticket sales are often driven by the celebrity speaker and famous logos on panels. But creating an event community where the audience wants to come back year over year requires an investment in dynamic keynote speakers, passionate moderators, and event hosts that can connect the inspiration with the education and provide motivation for all who attend.  

This past week I hosted and emceed The Social Shake-Up conference in Atlanta. As I was coming off stage, the AV director approached me and asked if I trained hosts or executives on how to moderate panels and conduct interviews. He stated that he felt my style was one of the most unique and dynamic he had seen in his 20+ years running AV for events.  

This feedback was very humbling and inspired me to share my strategy and approach for each event that hires me as host & emcee or event ambassador.

Below, I breakdown my pre-event strategy, on-stage focus, and overall vision of success when moderating panels. I also wrote a post titled “What All Great Hosts and Moderators have” that goes into more detail on the importance of building 3-way trust!

I go in-depth on each of these in the podcast episode that you can listen to at the bottom of this blog post.


  • Panel topic, type of panelists, and length of the panel should be a collaboration between the event organizer and panel moderator.
  • Why the outreach and first interaction with the panelists must have a focused message.
  • Why I don’t ask for questions or provide questions to panelists
  • How asking for 2 and only 2 “audience takeaways” shifts the dynamic of the panel 
  • How I deal with panelists that REQUIRE a list of questions
  • Where does the trust triangle start as a moderator?
  • How to crowdsource audience questions and event theme?
  • Why I take notes about a panelist’s most recent tweet, hobby, or current passion.


  • Combine panelist 2 takeaways with crowdsourced questions to formulate discussion flow!
  • Why panelist MUST have handheld microphones
  • Why the order and what’s on the screen matters during the panel
  • How to ask the same question twice without anyone noticing it
  • The art of reframing an answer to translate it for the audience 
  • How to include your insights and data without injecting yourself too much as the moderator
  • How to handle BORING answers 
  • How to create debate/dialogue between panelists
  • What a moderator must be aware of while listening to a panelists answer
  • What I envision as a success while on stage for me as the moderator, and it has nothing to do with the audience.

Moderator success:

  • Why “if you don’t know the moderator is there” is the most significant line of crap and a great moderator is heard, but the panelists takeaways are what’s remembered. 
  • Importance of including the event theme, trends and goal of event manager
  • How a lousy panelist won’t ruin a panel that doesn’t cover pre-determined questions
  • The art of cutting someone off or limiting their answer without being rude or playing Oscars music.
  • Why moderator should be compensated and great panelists sell event tickets, but a great moderated panel sells next years tickets and turns attendees into superfans.

How To Make Panels and Interviews Not Suck!

If you want more insights and examples, listen to this episode of the FOMO Fanz podcast below or in any podcasting app.

How to Earn Trust as a Moderator or Emcee

How to Earn Trust as a Moderator or Emcee

That’s right. The key to being the best moderator you can be is to earn the trust of both the panelists and the audience. Without trust there is no relationship and without a relationship, it’s hard to keep people’s attention and drive home a point.

Show The Panelists You Care

You all know how much this saying means to me, I have a whole campaign around it! But this slogan is perfect when it comes to moderating. 

One of the biggest things that set me apart from other moderators is that I ask each panelist for two points that they want to drive home during the panel. By asking each of the panelists what they are looking to get out of their stage time, I am showing them that I am concerned about their goals.

Then I follow up by telling the panelists that my goal for the session is to make them look good, get their point across and ensure the audience gets what they want/need. Lastly, the day of, I ask if there are any subjects that are off of the table.

Get In Touch With The Audience

Let’s be honest, the panel is for the audience, so it is your job as the moderator to make sure the audience gets what they need. There are a few places you can look for this information:

  • The Title and Description of the panel (if you didn’t write it)
  • The “about” section of the conference
  • The chats happening around the event
    • Hashtags
    • Facebook Groups
    • Reddit Threads

As a moderator, you are the liaison between the audience and the panel!

The last one is my favorite, I generally try to connect with the audience one way or another before my session. This allows me to ensure I get the information out of the panelists that the audience is looking to get.

Anytime I got to interact with other conference-goers at Social Shake Up 2019, I was sure to ask them what they thought about influencers, what they would ask an influencer if they got the chance and what they wanted to get out of the conference. I kept all of this information in mind when I moderated a panel with 6 influencers later in the conference.

Use Your Trust For Good

The goal I have as a moderator is to make the organizer feel like they hit a home run with their panel choices. I also want panelists to tell me that conversation came easily and they got to say what they wanted to.

As a moderator, you are the liaison between the audience and the panel. Once you have the trust of both parties, you can make amazing things happen for both sides.

Knowing the wants and needs of both parties allows you the power to know when a panelist has insight that will blow the audience’s mind or when the audience isn’t getting what they need out of a session.

The trust you’ve gained will allow you to direct and redirect conversations that are beneficial to all parties and at the end of the day, that should be what you are working towards.

I cover this topic in more detail on my podcast FOMOFanz episode 103 and on my blog titled “How to Make Panels and Interviews Not Suck!”

This blog was first posted on iSocialFanz.com as https://www.isocialfanz.com/how-to-earn-trust-as-a-moderator-or-emcee/