Train Moderators for Top-Notch Panel Presentations

The Professional Convention Management Association hosts a training workshop for volunteers to learn how to skillfully facilitate panel-discussion presentations. (Titled "Master Moderators" in the print edition.)

What's the great idea? Train volunteers to be skilled panel-discussion moderators.

Who's doing it? Professional Convention Management Association

What's involved? PCMA offers a one-day, in-person workshop for volunteers interested in being moderators, limited to 20 people per workshop. Facilitator Curt Peoples, president of Peoples & Company Communications, teaches new moderators about researching their presentation topics, getting to know panelists in advance, how to involve all panelists equally and appropriately, and how to manage difficult questions or dead spots in conversation. These trained moderators help both the audience and the panelists get the most out of education sessions at PCMA conferences.

"Probably the easiest presentation for a subject-matter expert would be the panel discussion. Conversely, that's probably the hardest thing to pull off: a successful panel discussion," says Kristin Crane, director of education at PCMA. "You really have to have a strong moderator who can handle the different conversations and pull out the different perspectives."

The training pays off many times over, as the moderators can be called upon to lead panel discussions on various topics and at many different PCMA events. "We definitely have a list of the people completing the training," says Crane. "We provide that to our planning committee when they are developing the programming. We also have extended that list to our chapters as well, when they're developing their own local chapter programming. ... We've gone out to these individuals and let them opt in to serving as a resource to their local chapters."

What are people saying? PCMA's first moderator training was in fall 2009, and it offered four workshops in 2010 with two planned for 2011. "We have found over this last year that, having that very targeted training on presentation skills, we've gotten great feedback from the participants," says Crane. "They themselves have come back to us and said that they feel they presented very well, that they were set up and prepared. They were able to have a better presentation than what they would have in the past ..."