4 Ways to Surprise the Panel Audience with a “Celebrity”

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If you would like to add a sense of awe and buzz in the halls at your next panel discussion, consider having a “surprise” guest – a well-known personality with “celebrity” status from the audience’s perspective.  (Of course, to the meeting planner, it won’t be a surprise, but to the audience (and perhaps the panelists), it will be!)

Here are 4 primary ways you can have your celebrities surprise the audience:

1.  The guest can be an unannounced panelist who is introduced at the beginning along with all the other panelists.

2.  The guest can join the panel after it has already started.  For example, E! Online reported that “Harrison Ford popped up unexpectedly at the Stars Wars: The Force Awakens panel…like it was nothing.  But it was so something!  His arrival, which received a standing ovation from the 6,000 people who waited forever to get into Hall H, marked the actor’s first official public appearance since he was injured in a plane crash back in March.”

3.  You can also have your celebrity out in the audience to ask the panel a question.  Bill Nye, the Science Guy, surprised Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) at the South by Southwest (SXSW) panel:  Irene Fagan Merro reported that “Perhaps the most memorable moment was when Bill Nye (the Science Guy!) made a surprise appearance. When the moderator turned to the audience for questions, Bill Nye approached the mic to ask the freshman House Rep his own [question].”

She continued, “Bill Nye addressing AOC as if he is any other attendee was extremely refreshing and sincere. AOC agreed, as she gave him a standing ovation of her own after he asked his question.”

4.  Finally, you can do a “drive by” where the surprise guest can be included via live or recorded video to share a short insight at the beginning, middle or end of your panel discussion.


Related Articles:

How Moderators Can Manage Awkward Audience Comments

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

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


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



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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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