How to Score Great Panelists for Your Next Panel Discussion

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I was talking with a meeting organizer the other day who was grousing about the usual suspects.  You know… the folks who are ALWAYS called upon to be on the panel – “legends” in the business (at least in their own mind), panel groupies who always offer to be on a panel, sponsors who need to be recognized, and other folks who need a tad bit of visibility (and you don’t want to give them an entire breakout session).

shutterstock_277372325You want your panelists to be DEEP (Diverse, have the expertise, be eloquent and prepared), but don’t settle for warm leftovers.  Aim high!

After all, if you don’t ask the people you really want to have on the panel, they can’t possibly say “yes.”

Put yourself in the audience’s shoes. Who would they want to hear?   Ask your organizational “heavy hitters” – those who are very visible, well-known, and respected within the audience – who you should ask to be on the panel.

Invite the featured keynote speaker to be part of a panel discussion about the conference theme.

Google the “newsmakers” and invite them to participate either directly or ask someone in your network who knows them to invite them.

Look at your network and ask people you respect and admire to participate. Industry analysts, bloggers and journalists are good choices.

Put out a call for panelists on your social networks.

Here are some ways to “sweeten the pot” to get them to say yes:

  • If they are an author, offer to do a book signing
  • If they are a speaker, offer to professionally videotape the session (it’s always hard to get good, high-quality video!)
  • If they are a blogger, influencer or thought leader, offer to make specific media mentions about the event AND something they care about (e.g. their blog or upcoming public event)
  • If PR is important to them, offer an extra press-only session
  • If they are interested in making valuable connections, offer to host a “meet the panelists’ reception/dinner” or host an extra-special VIP private dinner
  • If they are looking for more visibility, offer to share (or even help them create) a case study about how their customers have been successful using their product or service.

Don’t settle for the usual suspects.  Delight the audience by aiming high – and bringing in new and fresh perspectives.

Make sure to share the podcast on how to move beyond “the usual suspects” and attract high-quality panelists for your next panel discussion.

Related Articles:

How to Organize a Panel Discussion

The Anatomy of a Powerful Panel Discussion

How to Find “D.E.E.P.” Panelists

How to Prepare to Be a Brilliant Panelist

For more information about how to moderate a lively & informative panel discussion, check out our free 7-part video series or our other resources to help you organize, moderate, or be a panel member.

Photo by fauxels

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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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