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Thank goodness the pandemic ice storm is beginning to thaw and we’re starting to venture outside and meeting in person again.  Most agree, we cannot “go back” to the way things were; we must forge ahead into new territory!

As a leading authority on moderating panel discussions, there are three things to consider as we move forward:

  1. As Oprah says, “The one thing I know for sure…” (and it has nothing to do with Meaghan and Harry) is that panels are not going away.  The usage of panels has increased in the virtual world, and it will continue to grow as we are able to bring in remote panelists for in-person and hybrid events.
  2. You will always have to consider two audiences: the in-person and virtual audience(s).  You may not have to serve both of them at the same time; however, the resulting conversation will decide if, when, and how you will serve them. You may even take recordings (live and replayed) and use them beyond the actual event.
  3. The virtual world has caused us to think in smaller “segments.”  For a panel, you’ll have at least three opportunities to switch it up.  Do something different.  Get the audience(s) involved. Have them lean into that intriguing, spontaneous conversation.

Rather than revert to the traditional panel format, you’ll want to switch gears every 6-8 minutes.  (see infographic)

Here are some ideas I’m using for an upcoming meetings industry leadership panel:

  • Whiteboard your one-word reaction to the topic.  All turn their handheld whiteboards at the same time!  Panelists comment/ask each other about why they picked that word and discuss.
  • Would You Rather?  Moderator tees up a question and the panelists give their preferences/discuss the reality of these tough decisions.  For example:

                 i. Would you rather keep everyone on (at reduced pay?) and potentially go out of business OR lay people off, hoping they will come back when business opens back up?
                ii. Would you rather “go back to business” or the “new normal” (whatever that is?)

  • Improv Style. What challenges do you see ahead as your employees come back to work?  One panelist will start and the next panelist must build on what has been said by saying “yes and…”
  • Agree/Disagree.  Moderator asks a question and the panelists raise their thumbs up or down paddle. For example:

              i. Test the paddles:  This is the most amazing group of women on the planet!
             ii. You always follow the advice you give to your mentees.
            iii. Mentees should start the mentoring relationship.

  • Rapid Fire Round.  Panelists come prepared to rapidly share experiences on what books, tools, podcasts, and solutions help give you insights into this new world and stay mentally healthy, and resilient.

This is the perfect opportunity to punch up your panel discussions for the in-person and virtual audiences! ​

Thank you to the SPIN Network for the initial publication of this article.

For more resources on moderating panel discussions, visit the Knowledge Vault. To have Kristin moderate your next panel, visit the Powerful Panels official website.

Related Articles:

How to Moderate a Virtual Panel Discussion

How to Create GREAT Questions for Your Panelists to Answer during Your Panel Discussion

Panel Discussion Tip #185 with Jeffrey Hayzlett: Finishing Panel Discussions

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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