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May 15, 2016

If a Panel, a Q&A, and a Keynote Speaker Had a Baby……it would be DigitalNow‘s creative collaboration sessions, according to

I was fascinated with’s description of the innovative keynote/panel format created by Fusion Productions, so I called the Owner, Hugh Lee, to get a better description of this unique format.

He prefaced his comments with the caveat that they begin the process with the following considerations:

  • Purpose – What are the desired goal(s) and outcome(s) of the event and session?
  • Content – What are the key messages and content that needs to be conveyed and explored?
  • Tech-Enabled – How comfortable are the speakers, moderators, panelists and audience members?  Have they used technology/meeting apps in the past?
  • Setting – How willing is the venue to change/alter the room for that session and be able to “turn” the room for the next scheduled session?
  • Audience Profile – Who will be in the audience and what are their needs, desires and expectations?
  • Moderator – Who will be the moderator?  Need someone who is “quick on his/her feet, will engage the audience and have a style/personality that will resonate with the audience.”

Once these factors are determined, then they collaborate on the best format for the session.  For the DigitalNow event, they opted for the “SME Format”  (Hugh didn’t call it that – I did.  Why?  Because he kept calling the panelists “SMEs” (Subject Matter Experts) – as they didn’t follow the traditional “panelist” role!)

So let’s follow the process as described by Hugh and in this article:

  • Keynote speaker for 35-40 minutes on a raised stage in a semi-theater in the round (three groupings around the stage)
  • The keynote speaker steps down into the middle of the room OR stays on the stage – depending on which works best for the room set-up.
  • Four panelists/SMEs are seated in director chairs on a platform in the middle of the room.  They interview the speaker using questions curated with the sponsor, the production company, and/or the moderator. [Kristin’s note:  Even though the panelists/SMEs are selected because of their topic expertise, they are more like hard-hitting news channel reporters who ask the hard-hitting questions (think Megyn Kelly or Anderson Cooper).]
  • The moderator works the room ensuring the conversation flows from four sources:
    • Panelist/SME questions
    • Audience questions from standing microphones placed strategically in the room
    • Audience questions sent from the meeting app
    • Moderator follow-up questions.  The moderator may even take a poll or two on a key point using the meeting app or a simple show of hands.
  • Moderator to summarize the conversation, ask for a short closing remark from the keynoter and we’re done!

What an intriguing format for a panel discussion.  Can’t wait to try it out, but only if the starting conditions are “just right” for the event!

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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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