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Rule #1: It's not about you.
Rule #2: No, really, it's not about you.
Rule #3: Dude, seriously, it's not about you.
We're there to see the panelists speak, not you, Mr. Moderator. Don't answer the questions yourself. Don't tell a "quick story" before every panelist has had a chance to tell their stories. Don't waste time showering the panelists with praise. We didn't wait in line to listen to you ramble about the first time you saw their movie. We. Don't. CARE.
Your contribution as a moderator should be moderate. Your job is to guide the discussion, make sure everyone on the panel gets a turn to speak, and move through as many questions as possible. That's it! Can you please just do that? Please?
Oh, and if one of the panelists is dominating the discussion by being a condescending asshole, it's your job to shut him down!
Argh - can you tell I've been to some annoying panel discussions lately? Makes me want to jump on stage and say, "Just let me do this!"
Have you been to a bad panel discussion? Share your story below!