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I’ve been devouring Chris Anderson’s new book, TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking.  In his closing comments, he says, “I’ve become convinced that tomorrow, even more than today, learning to present your ideas live to other humans will prove to be an absolutely essential skill.”

I agree.

Yet it’s more than just presenting your ideas…it’s about sparking conversation with those other humans in the live audience or beyond.  Anderson describes “full spectrum formats” as a way to “build more into a talk than just words and slides.”  He suggests 16 potential innovations – and I think three of these can impact the notoriously tedious panel discussion:

  1.  Dramatic props.  If you didn’t see last week’s post, you can read it here!
  2.  New debate formats.  He offers up the Oxford Union format, but there are plenty of political debate formats to choose from.
  3. Illustrated Interview.  Now this one has me thinking….

Anderson describes this as an interview format that encourages some preparation by both interviewer and interviewee.  For our purposes, we are going to expand that to multiple interviewees – which now makes it a panel, and not an interview.  But don’t let me mince words here….

“It’s a conversation accompanied by a sequence of images [or video] that has been worked out in advance by both parties.  The images act as chapter markers for the various topics to be covered, and they add refreshing reference points for the conversation.”

He also adds, “It allows interviewees to really think about how they want to structure an idea that matters to them.  And it decreases the risk of rambling or getting bogged down….[the interviewer] has the option to query any points that aren’t clear, live on stage, while the talk is in progress.”

Sure enough, orchestrating this with one person can be a challenge.  Doing it with three or four panelists can be downright daunting.  Can it be done?  YES!  Especially if you are talking about something quite visual or auditory.

Currently, I may (notice the “may”) give the panelists the option to have 1-2 slides if need be to illustrate a specific point they want to make.  I load them all up into ONE slide deck and I am in control of which slide is presented – if any at all.  So the technology is there…easy peasy.

It’s the flow between one chapter and another as well as the delicate balance between preparation and spontaneity.  But I’m up for a challenge…I’m going to have to give this a try sometime!

For quick tips and techniques from industry professionals to help you moderate a lively and informative panel discussion at your next meeting, conference or convention, visit the Powerful Panels YouTube playlist, “Powerful Panel Discussion Tips.”

Related Articles:

Audience-Engaging, Powerful Panel Discussion Format

Top 10 Times to Intervene as a Panel Moderator

3 Popular Panel Discussion Formats

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.

Kristin Arnold



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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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