I'm moderating my first panel at a large conference at the upcoming Grace Hopper Celebration for Women in Computing. I've been on panels before. I've done entire hour long presentations before. But I've never moderated a panel.
Now, in just a couple of weeks, I will be moderating "Open Source Community Development" where we'll be tackling issues about how Open Source communities grow, thrive, and possibly die or wither away. Interesting topics I hope we can explore will be about building trust and encouraging women to participate. All of these things I think will be helpful for the OpenSolaris community.
The question remains: how best to moderate? I know from personal experience that I appreciate a moderator who keeps the flow moving, knows when to take a discussion "off line", and keeps up a slide of all of the speakers' names so the audience doesn't have to remember. So, it's a given I'll do those things (and hopefully do them well).
But after reading several great "how to moderate a panel" blogs (thanks, Stormy, for the intitial link that got me started on this), I've gotten a lot of conflicting information, so I'm going to have to make some decisions myself. For example, several folks who have moderated other panels argue that the moderator must always introduce the panelists, while others suggest letting the panelists themselves do it. Personally, I've always introduced myself, either while presenting alone or on a panel.
Some recommend assigning a few questions to certain panelists in advance and making sure you all meet as a complete group before the panel, while others say that doing so will ruin the spontaneity of the panel. I believe that at least a short meeting before hand is warranted so we will at least have the name to face thing down.
All the advice is clear, though, I need to make sure I am personally familiar with all of the panelists' backgrounds and areas of expertise so I can direct questions appropriately. While I know a few of these women personally, or follow them on twitter, and clearly learned about them when we were proposing the panel, I still need to make sure I do all the appropriate research.
Do any of you have any advice in this area? After all, as the audience, you will be my customer!
Here are links to the advice I've been reading: