On Friday at the America's Blockchain Summit, the Future of Blockchain panel featured Rowan Stone from privacy coin and dapp platform Horizen, Mark Jeffrey from decentralized emergency response platform Guardian Circle and Randy Hilarski from Aesop Social. What surprised me was that we got lots of feedback from the audience about how they particularly appreciated the lively nature of our panel.
As moderator of the panel, I thought I'd share a few details on things that went well, plus some additional ideas I had afterwards, and I hope that this may help other crypto panel moderators and conference organizers.
When a panel goes well, the audience really benefits from the expertise and contrasting perspectives of the different panelists. They also appreciate the energy of the interplay between the panelists, the moderator and the audience, which can make the sessions a lot more interesting than regular conference talks by just one person.
Here are a few tips that worked for us:
- Tip 1: Let the panelists do most of their personal intro's rather than the moderator and start off with that. Have them keep the intro's brief but with enough content so that the audience understands why the panelists might have great advice and perspective to share.
Photo: Rowan Stone, Horizen, courtesy of America’s Blockchain Summit
- Tip 2: Here's an idea: for each panel you moderate, try out 2 ways to engage the audience. One thing I did was ask for a show of hands of which people are entrepreneurs or helping build a business or hope to create a business in the future. Hint: that's almost everybody in many countries. And then I also asked for a show of hands for which people were thinking about or trying to figure out how they might use blockchain in their current or future business. Again, that's going to be a high percentage at a blockchain conference. The neat thing there is not just that people get to do a little physical exercise by raising their hands -- they also get to see that they have something in common with the people around them.
Now, a question to avoid is: "How many people own bitcoin?", because that's like asking “who's carrying around $500 today?” Awkward. A better option could be to ask how many people have created a bitcoin wallet or crypto exchange account.
- Tip 3: If you think the audience might not understand what your panelist is talking about, don't hesitate, jump in, interrupt your panelist and explain what's going on. For example, I jumped in a couple of times during the panel. One time it was to mention what a particular blockchain project was that a panelist was talking about, because I knew that many folks in the audience did not know it. Your panelists are experts and they may forget that not all of the audience will understand the references that they make.
- Tip 4: In preparing the panel, I came up with 4 main topics and shared those with the panelists beforehand, and I think that worked out well.
Photo: Mark Jeffrey, Guardian Circle, courtesy of America’s Blockchain Summit
- Tip 5: Preserve time for audience questions, and also try to set the audience up to actually have some questions -- it's an important metric on the success of the panel, and it's also a sign that they have been engaged in the experience. The conference organization may have a monitor screen to show you how much time is left in the session. You could clarify with them whether that number includes the time left for audience questions or not.
- Tip 6: During the panel, you can call on particular panelists to answer a question or address a particular topic first, to make sure there is a good balance between time and content amongst the different panelists. Some may speak longer to explain a concept, and different panelists can have different levels of expertise in the points you're addressing.
Adrian Scott, Freedom Stack / Zooch!, courtesy of America’s Blockchain Summit
- Tip 7: A couple of extra bonus points: How about having a slide that's on during the panel that includes the social media handles and/or web sites for your panelists and moderator. That gives the audience a way to continue the experience beyond the conference, and also gives the panelists some marketing value. And here's another thought: You could also prepare an extra slide or two mentioning a chart or trend that could be displayed during the panel for your panelists to address. That will provide some extra visual variety for the audience, adding another dimension to the experience.
I'd like to thank the panelists who joined me on Friday in making the panel a success, Rowan Stone from Horizen, Mark Jeffrey from Guardian Circle and Randy Hilarski from Aesop Social, and thank you to the organizer, David Proenza, his team and the audience at the Americas Blockchain Summit in Panama.
Adrian Scott is founder of Freedom Stack Ltd., creator of the Zooch! mobile app. He blogs at www.adrianscott.com. He was founding investor in Napster, pioneered social networking with his startup Ryze, and is former CTO of two crypto projects. He can be reached on Twitter and Instagram at @AdrianScottcom.