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I just finished an interview with executive coach Pam Fox Rollin on how to be a powerful panelist during a panel discussion at a meeting, conference, or convention.  From our discussion, five essential elements of a powerful panelist emerged:

  1. Passion.  A panelist must have passion for the topic as an expert, authority or practitioner in the field.  Passion creates energy and virtually compels the audience to lean forward to listen to what they have to say.
  2. Generosity. A panelist who is willing to share information, accolades, and perspectives with the other panelists and the audience.  As Pam says, “They are willing to share the stuff that matters. As an executive, they may not be able to share everything, but they can be generous with ‘little bits of insight that the audience will appreciate.’”
  3. Curiosity.  A panelist should be curious about the other panelists – who they are, what they have to say about the topic, where they agree and disagree.  Although they have passion about the topic, that doesn’t mean they are right about everything all the time.  A powerful panelist is willing to learn something from their fellow panelists (Pam likes to ask each of the panelists, “What did you learn here today?” as her closing question to the panel discussion).
  4. Provocativeness.  A panel where everyone is in agreement makes for a boring panel.  A panelist must be willing to address the tough issues the audience really wants to know, think, or feel.  Now, that doesn’t mean you have to act like a panelist on CNN, but you should be able to respectfully discuss the key issues.
  5. Kindness.  Finally, a panelist should be kind.  Being able to disagree without being disagreeable.  Respectful of the audience – even when they ask a subjectively stupid question. In other words, don’t be a schmuck.

Thanks, Pam for sharing your wisdom as to what makes a panelist powerful during a panel discussion!


Related Articles:

Moderators, Are You Over-preparing Your Panelists?

How to Create GREAT Questions for Your Panelists to Answer during Your Panel Discussion

Panel Discussion Tip #161 with Mark Sanborn: What To Do With a Hyper Panelist

For more resources on moderating panel discussions, visit the Knowledge Vault. To have Kristin moderate your next panel, visit the Powerful Panels official website.

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Kristin ArnoldKristin Arnold
KRISTIN ARNOLD, MBA, CSP, CPF|Master has been facilitating meaningful conversations between executives and managers to make better decisions and achieve extraordinary results for 25+ years. She's a leading authority on moderating panel discussions and passionate about finding the perfect olive to complement a vodka martini.
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