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At a recent panel discussion at the Back End of Innovation Conference in New Orleans, LA, the panel moderator wanted to encourage audience members to share their “failures” in commercializing innovation. Not an easy task to get people to ‘fess up’ in front of their peers.

“Hi! I’m Kristin, and I’m a failure.” Ummm….so what’s a moderator to do?

It all starts with the “Why?” Why do you want people to share their failures with each other? I presume it is to learn what doesn’t work – which is equally as important as learning from successes. I love the quote attributed to Sir Isaac Newton: “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” The “giants” are the people who have gone before us – who have paved the road with their successes and failures.

Interestingly enough, another “why” emerges when you talk to a few participants: “This conference serves as group therapy for those who have to actually commercialize innovation.”

So we need to learn from each other and feel compassion for their trials and tribulations. Got it.

Now how are we going to get people to share?

In this case, “The moderator actually gave away chocolate to those willing to share failure stories.” Bribery can work for certain crowds. You can even have fun with it by giving out a Payday or 100 Grand candy bar. If you have a flirty style, you could even give out some Hershey Kisses!

What are some of the ways you encourage panel discussion participants to share some less-than-flattering stories?


For more resources on how to make meetings, panels, and room sets better, make sure to check out this knowledge vault which is chock-full of customizable checklists, worksheets, templates, agendas, sample emails, video interviews and webinars with industry icons and professional moderators.

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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.


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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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