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Harry A. Overstreet, an American educator, first coined the term “panel discussion” in a short article “On the Panel” published in the October, 1934 issue of The Trained Nurse and Hospital Review.  In essence, Overstreet envisioned the panel as a “glorified conversation [with] all the delight of generous give-and-take. And if it is a genuinely good conversation, it sends people away with a warm feeling not only that their own ideas have been clarified but that their understanding of other points of view has been broadened.”

In that article, he emphasized “that no one, under any circumstances, is to rise and make a speech. To do so, he indicates, will be the one unforgivable offense.”

So why is it that the majority of panels have presentations in them?  If a panelist needs to give a speech, then allot that person (or persons)  time on the program before all the panelists assemble on the stage.  Then, when the panel discussion (note the word “discussion” – it’s not “panel presentation”) starts,  the panelists can launch right into the conversation with some well-thought-out questions.

And if someone rises to give a speech, then the moderator should swiftly and firmly intervene by redirecting the conversation to another panelist or out to the audience.

I think Harry had it right.  No more speeches during a panel discussion.  Make it a conversation that everyone can feel good about.  For helpful resources on becoming a better panel moderator and avoiding these unforgivable offenses, check out this step-by-step guide.

Related Articles:

How to Organize a Panel Discussion

Panel Discussion Definition

27 Popular Panel Discussion Formats

How to Structure a Panel Discussion

How and When to Manage Audience Q&A

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.

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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