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Jill Stone

Your Meeting Matchmaker Fairy Godmother

The Panel Primer

in: Attendee Experience Event Planning Advice Meeting Planning Experience


A panel discussion for your event is a great way to bring together a group of industry experts to share their knowledge and guidance, while also allowing your audience to participate with questions and comments.

Panels are a relatively easy addition to your event, but they can do require a bit of planning.

Here are some simple ideas for making the most of your panel:

Interview each panel member ahead of time: Ask each panel member the questions they wish to be asked. For example, they could each share about 5 questions, figure on using 3 of them, but keep a hold of the others in case you need a fill in question and/or you receive a batch of similar questions from the other participants.

Present guidelines to the panels: Ask panelists to keep their answers short, 3 – 5 minutes per answer. Be sure to mention that it is your intention to make sure everyone has equal opportunity to be heard.

Choose a Moderator: A good moderator will have a professional stage presence and come prepared. When asking questions of the panel, they should never leave it up to the panel to decide who should answer the question as it will create an awkward situation. Instead, the moderator should pose the question to a specific panelist to answer. Also, the moderator should be ready to keep everyone timely.

Consider an Audience Assistant: Depending upon the size of your audience, it may make sense to have a person out amongst the audience with a microphone so they can walk around the room and take audience questions. Also, the assistant can keep an eye on a stopwatch and alert all to be timely with questions and responses.

Consider Taking Questions Ahead of Time: Another idea is to ask the audience members to also provide questions ahead of time. They can either be surveyed before the conference or asked to write down questions on note cards as they enter the room. The assistant can then ask them during Q&A time.

Help panelists help the audience: Ask panelists to answer each audience question by beginning with the topic of the question. If the question is, “What are your top recommendations for creating a stellar resume?” The panelist will begin the answer with something like, “My top recommendations for creating a stellar resume are . . .”

A small bit of planning will go a long way in creating a successful panel offer for your next event!

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