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Picture this:  A conference program proclaiming a “panel discussion of thought leaders.”  A room set with a lectern and four black wrought-iron bar stools.  An audience expecting a panel discussion….

And what did we get?  A panel discussion that was NOT a panel discussion.  The “moderator” was more of an “emcee” who introduced each panelist.  The panelists gave what was supposed to be a seven-minute presentation, but most of them took between 12 to 14 minutes.  And then there was time for two questions (that were directed to a specific panelist), eclipsed by an opportunity to turn to your neighbor to discuss.


A panel discussion implies that there is a conversation amongst the panelists.

A panel discussion is NOT:

  • A bunch of presentations.  Otherwise, schedule a series of presentations and then have the panel discussion AFTER the presentations!
  • An interview.  If there is only one panelist, then there is no conversation between panelists.  The moderator is interviewing the sole panelist.  So don’t call it a panel, call it an interview!
  • A forum.  When the forum is completely devoted to answering questions from the audience, that would be a town hall meeting.

I don’t mean to quibble, but darn it, as meeting professionals, let’s use the proper terminology!  Call it a panel discussion when it IS a panel discussion.  And call it a presentation, interview or forum when it is not.


For more resources on how to make meetings, panels, and room sets better, make sure to check out this knowledge vault which is chock-full of customizable checklists, worksheets, templates, agendas, sample emails, video interviews and webinars with industry icons and professional moderators.

Related Articles:

10 Ways Panel Moderators Can Manage Time Effectively During a Panel Discussion

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

3 Popular Panel Discussion Formats

Kristin Arnold, professional panel moderator and high-stakes meeting facilitator, shares her best practices for interactive, interesting, and engaging panel presentations. For more resources like this, or 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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