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!)
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.