April 8, 2016 by Sarah Michel
Panel discussions are still a commonly used format for conference organizers. They’re easy to program and put the kids in the show, but rarely add learning value to the paying participants.
Some of the reasons panels fail to connect include:
Today’s premium attendee wants to participate and feel like they’re the fourth or fifth member of the panel. They want to experience a fast-paced, unpredictable, relevant and forward leaning conversation. They don’t want a formal presentation with a moderator who ignores the audience.
A big mistake conference organizers make with panels is not holding them accountable for the learning outcomes of the session. Coach the moderator and the panel participants just like you would a solo speaker for any other educational session.
Borrowing from TED’s speaker commandments, we created the Ten Panel Commandments. These commandments may be borrowed in whole or part to help your continuous improvement efforts and speaker coaching. Some organizations make this part of their speaker agreement. Others share helpful tips like these in their speaker portal or bulletins.
What other commandments would you add? What other interventions have you tried to improve the panel discussion format experience?
Filed Under: Speaker Coaching
Excellent list, Sarah! I would also add, “Thou shalt not be boring.” From the moment the audience walks in the room, they make assumptions about the panel. Long, white draped table with microphone stands? Boring! Lectern at the end? Ho Hum.
Start smartly. I like to ask a provocative, short/closed question to the audience AND the panelists – with the panelists having to write down their answer on a large foam board for all to read (think The Newlywed Game) – and the audience gets to chat with their neighbors. It really sets the tone that we will be engaging AND entertaining!
Great idea Kristin! Check out Kristin’s book and other great resources at http://www.powerfulpanels.com
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