Organization of the conference is hard work, and the main participants there are the panelists, a moderator, and coordinator. Each of these parties has particular responsibilities to perform before the conference starts, and those include such aspects as efficient communication, answering the last-minute questions and clarifying all details.
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The communication between the panelists is essential for a successful conference. Although each of them acts individually and represents their own topic, a panel is one learning session, not three, five, or seven of them. Therefore, all panelists’ ideas should be combined in a logical way. That does not mean that the panelists should talk on the same topic and agree on everything – diverse and controversial questions will only make a panel more interesting. Nevertheless, the main focus should be clear for everyone. To ensure this, panelists should not only send the copies of their works to their moderator, which is required to do at least five working days before the conference but show those to other panelists as well (“Panelist/Presenter Responsibilities” par. 2). The participants can also share their presentations. They can contact each other via email or even organize a meeting through Skype to discuss the most important aspect of the conference together. If the panelists are familiar with each other’s works, they will be ready for discussion and answering the questions and will feel confident and comfortable. That will consequently make the session more pleasant for the audience.
The moderator’s role is equally important. A day before the conference, a moderator has to make sure that he has the correct names and surnames of the panelists and can pronounce them rightly. The same should be done regarding their topics. Since a moderator needs to represent each of the participants, he has to know a little information about them, which is why the communication between a moderator and panelists is essential as well. Another important aspect that moderators are responsible for is time. They should understand the panelists’ points and distribute time accordingly to those. During the conference, each of the panelists should have the exact amount of time promised to them, which is why a day before a panel all of them should be clearly informed about how much time they have. For a moderator, it would be helpful to have a “cheat sheet” with all names, surnames, topics, and timing (Romkema and Culliton 1). It is better to print it in a large font so that the needed information can be easily found. Along with it, he should also prepare the list of questions that will help to encourage lively debates and discussions. Finally, a day before the conference, a moderator can meet with the panelists, show a conference room to them, explain the stages of a panel and clarify the remaining details.
The primary coordinator’s job is to ensure that the panelists and their moderator are communicating with each other. That is why the day before the conference, he has to inform these two parties, probably via email, about the tasks that they should necessarily do before a panel. Coordinators should also check all technical and organizational details, such as the lightning, the setting of the stage, the availability and serviceability of microphones and other necessary equipment, the presence of meals and snacks, etc. (Kirsner par. 6).
To conclude, although clever panelists and interesting topics are essential for a successful panel, those are not enough. Both moderators and coordinators have to do a great job to provide the communication and collaboration between the participants and make sure that all the last-minute questions are answered.
Kirsner, Scott. Guidelines for Great Panel Discussions: Advice for Event Organizers and Moderators. n.d. Web.
Panelist/Presenter Responsibilities, Panels. 2015. Web.
Romkema, Jeanette and Michael Culliton. A Learning-Centered Conference: The Panel Moderator. n.d. Web.