Empowerment, Entrepreneurship, How-To

How I Prepare For Moderating A Panel

March 20, 2018
Moderating a panel

I moderated a panel discussion for the second Saturday in a row. This time is was for the Ryerson Women In Leadership Conference. I’m a proud Ryerson University alumna and I also served as a board member for the Ryerson Alumni Association. I’m always happy to support Ryerson. I’m also excited to be doing more of these types of events. Thought I’d share with you how I handle moderating a panel

The theme of the panel I moderated last weekend was overcoming obstacles. I had the opportunity to chat with 5 awe inspiring women. Darine BenAmara – Founder – CEO of EasyPoli Consulting and the Founder of The Smart Woman, Ellen Drevnig – Vice President, Litigation and Valuation Services at RSM Canada, Leen Li – Chief Financial Officer at Wealthsimple, Jennifer Lee – National Retail Leader & Consumer Analytics Practice Leader at Deloitte and Sonia Thomas – Police Inspector at Toronto 53 Division.

Each one shared stories that I won’t soon forget. We talked about barriers to female leadership, staying motivated, the importance of mentorship and other topics. I felt lucky to learn from them and wished we had more time.


moderating a panel

With Leen Li, Jennifer Lee, Sonia Thomas, Ellen Drevnig and Darine BenAmara

Moderating a panel

With Patryce Bowling


With My Former Rez Mate Julie Zabizewski (I was her R.A. You never who you’ll run in to at these things)

Moderating a panel

You guys always see my pictures after the fact but I thought I’d share a little something about how I prepare for and execute morderating a panel. I know many of you gutsy gyals might be moderating a few panels yourselves, so I hope this is helpful. As always this is just what works for me ok!


  1. Research: I always take some time to research the panelists. Not just linked in profiles but I find articles, I peruse any public social channels. Just to get a feel for who these people are. It really helps with the flow of the conversation and helps guide who I ask what question. I also look up general trends related to the event/panel themes. Are there any stats I can mention, topical news stories I can splice in to convos? Do any of the companies, the panelists are associated with, have initiatives or events that relate to the theme? That kind of thing.
  2. Memorize key facts about panelists: Once I do the research I commit a few details about each panelist to memory.
  3. Can I bring a guest?: I find out in advance whether I can bring a guest.  In my case my intern Patryce was able to attend this last event. She was able to capture photos and video of me in action. She also holds my business cards so that when I get off stage I can quickly distribute cards if needed, instead of awkwardly rustling through my bag. Plus I thought she would really benefit from the panel.
  4. Outfit: Y’all know I like to look good. But there are a few things I keep in mind when choosing my look for the day. I inquire about the dress code. I also find out whether the chairs we’ll be sitting on are low or high. High chairs equals no skirt for me. I’ve seen some things I can’t un-see while sitting in the audience for these kind of events.  Oooo maybe I should do a post on fashion tips for panelists/speakers/moderators etc. Lemme know if you would check that out. You can get my look above HERE.

At The Event:

  1. Assess the room: I had previously inquired about who was going to be in the room, but I always try to get to the event early so that I can assess the room. Who am I talking to? What jokes and references would work in this room?
  2. Meet the panelists: In past moderating roles I’ve done a conference call with the panelists prior to the event. But it’s often tricky to coordinate a call time, especially when dealing with high profile, busy people. So another reason I get there early is to meet and have a quick chat with the panelists. Just so we’re not hitting the stage cold.
  3. Touch base with organizers: I always make sure to touch base with the organizers of the event. I find out how they’re doing for time? I find out how we’re going to handle audience Q&As. Will I choose who asks the next question or does the person with the mic determine? Are there any changes in structure? i.e. Am I still introducing panelists etc.


  1. What to take up to the stage: My notes – Preferably on cards because it looks neater. A pen- For me to quickly jot down any important points raised that I’d like to reiterate. My cell phone – So I can take selfies. NO I’m joking. So I can keep track of time. A bottle of water…with a straw – I don’t want to mess up my lipstick or spill water on my outfit lol!
  2. Go with the flow: Once the panel gets going I have my questions, but I try to just go with the flow of the conversation. However if the panel received the questions ahead of time, I’m mindful not to deviate too far from the plan in case they carefully prepared answers.
  3. Keep them on time: There is never enough time for panel discussions. Especially if there are more than three panelists. So I’m constantly reminding panelists to keep their responses brief. I’m never rude…but I try to be firm.
  4. Keep energy up in the room: My style as a moderator is to keep the audience engaged in the conversation. I’m constantly looking out at the audience, saying stuff like “do you agree?”,  I might crack a few jokes here and there. I include the audience but without encouraging early questions and rowdiness. You know what I mean?


  1. Thank organizers: I always make a point to identify the person who invited me to participate and thank them for having me.
  2. Reach out to panelists: I like to get business cards from panelists especially when I’m inspired by them or I like their energy. Then I drop them a line to say it was great to meet them etc. This is a networking opportunity for me as well right!
  3. Share pictures and what you learned: This is easy for me because I’m a blogger I share everything duh. But for me sharing pictures of the event is an extension of my gratitude to the organizer. I can publicly thank the organizer on social media. Annnddd I can spread the word about the awesome panelists I met, so that others can learn from them as well.

So that’s just a little insight into how I handle my role as moderator. I just did a quick overview there’s a bit more to it, especially during the actual discussion. Let me know if you’d like to read more on this.

Thanks for reading!


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