7 Tactics to Take a Panel Discussion from Uninspired to Unforgettable

The Spotlight Panel Discussion – Comic-Con Style
October 9, 2018
Do TV News “Panels” Have Constructive Discussions?
October 25, 2018

Nowhere is fascination more relevant and important than during a panel discussion at a big meeting or conference.  After all, your audience’s expectations aren’t that high.  Imagine if you could have them leaning into the conversation.

Sally Hogshead, my dear friend and colleague (in my mind, she’s the Queen of Fascination!), says, “When people are fascinated, they’re not thinking about the texts or emails they need to send. They’re not checking their calendars, or even the meeting agenda. They’re completely consumed by the conversation and the experience. Your audience wants to be fascinated.  It’s not just about the logistics, it’s about creating an unforgettable and fascinating experience. Attendees need to leave thinking, feeling, or believing something different than when they arrived.”

She continues to explain:

“Too often when meetings fall flat there are not enough ‘a-ha’s. Your audience is asking “What am I going to learn in this room that I can’t get elsewhere?” The internet being what it is, that’s setting a high bar. But if you capture your audience’s attention, your message will have impact.

If we fail to fascinate, and fail to create these moments of intense focus, then we’re far less likely to persuade. People will get distracted by the next notification, the next vendor, the next shiny object in the lobby.

You need to fascinate, or you will fail.”

A truly great panel discussion is not just about delivering entertaining content. It’s also not just about giving people tools they can use back at the office. The secret of a great panel is that it also inspires connections.  It gives your participants something to talk about throughout the rest of the conference, so they can create relationships and meaningful conversations that are the foundation of getting people to come back again.

So how can you make your panel discussion more fascinating? What are you going to do during your session that could never be experienced virtually? What’s going to happen in that room that could never be relayed in a PowerPoint slide?

When looking to create more engagement during your panel discussion, consider turning to Sally’s Fascination Advantage® to elevate the experience of your participants.

She believes you have seven different ways to make your panel discussion more fascinating. Here are some tactics to consider for captivating your audience and setting your panel apart from every other meeting during the conference:

If you use PASSION to fascinate your audience, you seek out ways to connect with them on an emotional level. You don’t just provide rational data, you find ways to make them feel strongly about your topic.

  • Play music as your audience is walking in to the room
  • Incorporate the senses: use elements of taste, sound, scent.
  • Discover what your audience is passionate about and work that into your session
  • Demonstrate an idea using the technique of Show and Tell

Using POWER to fascinate your audience means you present your organization, or yourself as an authority.

  • Start with a strong opening position or statement
  • Encourage your panelists to share and debate their strong opinions
  • Establishing the panelists’ expertise in the promotional materials, conference brochure and app, as well as a strong, concise, introduction at the beginning of the panel.
  • Map out the session, switching gears periodically

When you call on PRESTIGE to create a fascinating experience you’ll elevate the perceived value of your participants’ experience.

  • Create scarcity by limiting the number of people allowed into the room
  • Create VIP only access to the panelists either before or after the panel session
  • Make your panel a high-end experience; use luxurious design elements in the location and staging
  • Incorporate exclusivity in the topic, the panelists and the in the audience

You can fascinate your audience by building curiosity and intrigue, using the MYSTIQUE Advantage to promote your event.

Use the ALERT Advantage and highlight the severity of the problem that you’ll solve. You will command your audience’s attention and keep them engaged during the panel.

  • Present a limited time offer around your panel
  • Relate the topic to relevant, impactful reasons why they should attend
  • Emphasize impactful, negative consequences if they don’t attend

The INNOVATION Advantage is a way that you can change the game for your participants.

Use the TRUST Advantage by creating a predictable pattern to plan your event and capture your audience’s attention. They will feel comfortable in the familiar framework of your program. You could also:

  • Build continuity using a “series” of panels during the conference
  • Refer to the past in the introductory comments and include your audience in your history
  • Clearly communicate exactly what will happen and what the audience can expect in your introductory remarks
  • Engage your audience early and often to show that you care

If you are planning a panel discussion, your success or failure depends upon your ability to earn a level of intense focus. You need to fascinate your audience.

Use these seven tactics to take your next panel discussion from “uninspired” to “unforgettable.”


BTW, you can review or discover the ways that you are naturally fascinating right here.)

Adapted with permission from Sally’s blog post on How to Fascinate Even the Most Jaded Audience.

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

Kristin Arnold, professional panel moderator, and high-stakes meeting facilitator, shares her best practices for interactive, interesting, and engaging panel presentations. For more resources like this, or to have Kristin moderate your next panel visit the Powerful Panels official website.


Share This:
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.
Contact Us
Skip to content

Our privacy policy has been updated. By clicking, 'I agree,' you consent to the terms therein. I Agree