Moderating a virtual panel has its own set of challenges – instead of organizing a series of presentations, you must moderate a group.
Before the panel – as always – preparation is key. Your speakers will need to know who the audience is, their level of expertise, and what they hope to gain from attending the presentation. Meeting as a group is helpful in starting to create a cohesive event. Plan the initial sequence of speakers, the overall format of the event, and the conclusion.
Immediately prior to the event, again meet with all the panelists and any technical people who are assisting. Lay down the ground rules, such as the amount of time allocated to their initial comments. Review your introduction with each panelist for accuracy, pronunciation, and relevance. Tell them how and when you will intervene and how they should signal when they want to answer a question or add to the discussion.
Introduce the event by clearly explaining the goal and describe the speakers’ backgrounds in that context. Describe the overall agenda and be sure the virtual audience knows how they can interact. Participants are often invited to submit questions through text chat, which you as the moderator can insert into the presentation or have the audience member deliver the question themselves. It can be helpful to have a colleague as one of the participants with pre-prepared questions to get the Q&A session started. Keep your audience engaged and your panelists focused by introducing an audience question, poll, or story every 10 minutes or so.
Conclude the event with a pledge to extend the conversation – whether that be by indicating that the panelists will respond to the unanswered questions within a few days, or contact information for future discussions.