How To Moderate A Panel Discussion, Facilitate A Brainstorming Meeting, Or Lead A Problem-solving Discussion

There may be situations when you will be called upon to lead a discussion. It could be panel style set up, like at a conference, or a brainstorming or problem solving discussion. Here are some tips you can use, depending on the type of discussion.

Panel Discussions

When it comes to leading a panel discussion, make sure you understand how many panel members there will be and how much time is allotted for the presentation and the question and answer period. You should coordinate with your panel members before hand to get their biographies, confirm pronunciation or any unique names, confirm their speaking time and also go over the goals and intent of the panel. If you will be asking the panel members questions, supply them with the questions ahead of time so they have plenty of time to prepare.

Once the panel session is underway, it is your job to make sure that the audience is informed of the purpose of the session, introduce the panel members and keep the discussion moving along. If it is a Q&A type of panel, make sure that a few audience members do not monopolize all the time. At the end of your panel, be sure to thank the speakers and also the audience.

Brainstorming and Problem Solving Discussions

Brainstorming can be a great way to gather ideas. However, it is very important that there is structure to brainstorming, or it can be a disorganized free-for-all fairly quickly. You should be clear on what the purpose of the brainstorming session is and make sure that your participants know the reason for the session. Regularly reiterating the purpose/goal will be helpful to keep things on track.

One of our favorite approaches is to ask each person to come up with five or so ideas on the topic. Then each person writes the ideas on individual sticky notes. These sticky notes can then be arranged by topic or theme. These themes can then be further developed as a group.

Putting people together in small groups can be a good approach for brainstorming, but it is good if you have an identified leader of each group to keep things focused and to make sure that one person does not dominate the discussion.

Finally, some ideas may be better than others when it comes to brainstorming, but you need to create an environment where everyone can give input, no matter how off the wall it may be. Sometimes far-fetched ideas can be crafted into a solution that is spot on.

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