This week, I was producing a virtual event that had two different types of panel discussions: a live panel discussion with the moderator and panelists in remote locations and a recorded panel discussion where the moderator and panelists in remote locations were recorded and then edited to be shown “live” during the event.
While neither format is better than another, they are different – and I think it is helpful to understand the pros and cons of each format:
A live virtual panel discussion has the spontaneity you want from a face-to-face, in-person panel discussion – it is just being held in the digital world with the moderator, panelists, and audience all in different locations – and experiencing the event at the same time. The audience knows that it is live, unscripted, and real. They are leaning into the juicy bits of conversation they can’t get from Google or Youtube. The moderator can pick up on the chat, solicit questions from the question box, or bring audience members in live to pose a question.
It is in this live environment, that you can experience the typical pitfalls of a live panel: a panelist doesn’t show up, the discussion falls flat, a panelist dominates the conversation or goes off-topic, they launch into a commercial promoting their products…and the list goes on.
You also have the technical risks of a virtual panel where the internet connection is unstable, audio or visual won’t work with a panelist, or the presets don’t work as planned. (Pre-sets are the frames that the A/V company sets up to put the panelists in so it makes for a cohesive visual experience).
One final potential downfall is that audience attendance could be lower due to the live, scheduled time of the event. In our wild new world of work, schedules can be packed with other virtual appointments. Unless of course, you record the live event for later viewing.
A recorded panel discussion is a more risk-averse option. It is NOT live, but pre-recorded. The good news is that you can edit out the fluff and awkwardness into a tight (and potentially shorter) conversation – which is good news in these days of Zoom fatigue, shorter and more concise is a blessing. A shorter, scheduled production could increase audience attendance, especially if they can listen to the recording at any time.
The technical risks are much smaller as you have time to record and edit the panel discussion, and your biggest worry is about streaming it out to the audience.
A side benefit of having a recorded panel discussion is that you can access panelists who might not be able to make the “live” event due to a scheduling conflict.
But here’s the downside: The audience will know that it is pre-recorded. That element of spontaneity is gone. Poof! This can be mitigated somewhat with the moderator and panelists making comments in the chatbox, but it just isn’t the same as live.
Your choice on the type of panel discussion depends on your desire for spontaneity and your tolerance for risk. You decide!