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Pictured above is my friend and panel referee “Alan ‘the Whistle’” Orloff, totally failing to keep me under control. This picture is from the “Three Strikes and You’re Out” panel of sports mystery authors.

As we continue to practice social distancing, we still need to meet, albeit virtually.  And we’ll still have the ubiquitous panel discussions with a group of experts discussing a topic with the audience listening in.

And your meeting will look like every other videoconference meeting or webinar.  Or will it?

What about changing it up?   Do the unexpected?  Dress it up?

Yes, you can intentionally alter your appearance so that your audience becomes excited and intrigued with your panel discussion – whether you are meeting face-to-face or virtually.  Just keep in mind that in the virtual world – you’ll only be visible from the waist up (unless you position your camera otherwise)!

How to Dress The Part

Think about the topic, the theme of the conference, or the host company’s slogan. Is there some way you can “dress it up” to add a touch of flair and excitement to the panel?  Here are a few possibilities:

Don a Costume. Wear something that is connected to your topic: a flashy tie, a feathered hat, or a jacket to signify the times. Frank Kelly started a panel discussion with an example of the power of first impressions. “I wear a suit that’s one size too large, have bad posture, and carry a piece of paper. I start, in a very monotonous voice, ‘Um, yes. I’m here to talk to you about leaving a lasting impression.’” Just as the audience begins to fidget and feel uncomfortable, he changes his demeanor and takes off the ill-fitting suit to reveal a well-tailored one beneath.

Dress Up. As part of the event invitation, ask the panelists to wear their favorite sports jersey, Hawaiian shirt, or a specific color.  Perhaps they can come dressed for a “part” in your panel.  Or different colors signify which position they are taking on the topic.

Professional speaker and Internet marketer Tom Antion tells a story about moderating a panel of senior managers of a pizza franchise. “I asked one of the panelists to march into the meeting wearing a filthy doctor’s lab coat with ketchup all over it (fake blood). I had another panelist come in with a crisp, new lab coat. I asked a simple question: ‘Which manager would you like operating on you?’ Of course, all the junior managers yelled out that they wouldn’t let either one of these people operate on them. Everyone was laughing and joking around, but the point was made. They must keep their employees looking clean and neat because nice customers won’t want to be served by grungy food service workers.”

Play a Character. The ultimate visual combines all these techniques together to become a “character” within your presentation. During a heated panel discussion with author Sasscer Hill, the panel moderator came dressed in a referee shirt, hat, and whistle!  And he moderated the panel as if he was the referee at a soccer match!

All it takes is a little inspiration and ingenuity to create a little visual excitement at your panel discussion!

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KRISTIN ARNOLD, MBA, CSP, CPF | Master, professional panel moderator, and high stakes meeting facilitator is on a quest to make all panel discussions lively and informative. Check out her free 7 -part video series on how to moderate a panel and other resources to help you organize, moderate, or be a panel member.

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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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