Is a panel discussion merely a “staged conversation” as noted by Indian author and frequent panelist Jerry Pinto in a recent blog posting?
He asserts: “A panel is… supposed to be a staged conversation. Before a panel, the moderator will inevitably say, ‘You know, this is just a conversation and we should all simply chat to each other.’ Everyone nods companionably at this little bit of social hypocrisy. Because if it were a conversation really, just a conversation, why are we all a little tense and expectant? Why are we here at all, rehearsing what we are going to say and sizing each other up?”
Admittedly, there is an element of truth to this assertion – but only if all the panelists play into this traditional notion of what a panel is…or is not.
It’s up to the panel moderator to set the tone, a conversational drumbeat, to reassure the panelists that this is NOT a staged event and to act accordingly. Polite ping-pong of the questions between the moderator and each panelist, or passing of the hot potato (the same question) amongst the panelists is quite frankly, boring. And when the panelists rehearse their questions and ideas in the pre-meeting before the panel, the subsequent “conversation” DOES appear to be contrived.
Instead, the audience is begging for spontaneous, surprising, and exclusive conversation that they can’t get from Google and/or YouTube – and it’s up to the panelists to deliver on the content AND the experience.
So the panel moderator has to encourage the panelists to break the mold by carefully crafting the questions, to switch gears periodically, and set the tone for a dynamic conversation – and NOT the same ol’ boring, ho-hum panel! And during that pre-panel meet up, challenge your panelists to share something exclusive, something spontaneous and/or surprising that will make your panel discussion memorable and worthwhile!
Moderators, Are You Over-preparing Your Panelists?
How to Create GREAT Questions for Your Panelists to Answer during Your Panel Discussion
Panel Discussion Tip #161 with Mark Sanborn: What To Do With a Hyper Panelist
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.