• Brian Fanzo

How To Make Panels and Interviews Not Suck!

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 professional 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.


Not only was I humbled by that feedback but I told him it’s something I take great pride in and last year started including it in my event hosting package where I can coach the panel moderators prior to the event. He said he would love to listen to a podcast on the topic that he could share with event managers, planners, and hosts that he works with each which inspired this episode of the FOMOFanz podcast.


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!


Below you'll find some of the topics discussed on this episode:

Pre-Event:

  • 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.

On-Stage

  • 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.

Vision of 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 panelist's 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 the moderator should be compensated and great panelists sell event tickets, but a great moderated panel sells next year's 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

For those looking for an event host & emcee or interested in booking me as your event ambassador please visit my speaker site at BrianFanzo.com or email Brian’s speaker agent Michelle@MichelleJoyce.com 

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