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I am currently preparing for a panel discussion where one panelist is insistent that she needs Powshutterstock_277372325erPoint slides.  Considering that slides are usually for presentations – and the “one unforgivable offense” is to rise and give a presentation, I am loathing to entertain her request.  Panels should focus on the discussion and interaction between panelists and not a humongous screen.

That being said, there can be some instances when slides can be appropriate. Such as when it:

  • Adds value from the attendee’s perspective
  • Makes an abstract concept more visibly understandable
  • Grabs the audience’s attention

Here are some ideas where I think it is appropriate to have a slide:

  • Panelist Slide.   One slide for each panelist with a photograph, name, a few key bullets and Twitter handle. Display this slide when the panelist is introduced. Create a continuous loop of al
    the panelist slides to show as people are walking into the room, prior to the start of the session.
  • Panelist Summary Slide. One slide with each panelist lined up in the same seating order with photo, headline and Twitter handle. This stays up for the duration of the session.
  • Transition. A funny, applicable video transition as the panel is getting set up or right after it is over
  • Reference. Allow each panelist to submit one (or other specific number) slide that he or she may need to reference during the conversation. If you allow more, then you need to allo
    ALL the panelists the same number of slides.


If you are going to allow panelists to present using visuals, encourage them to:

  • As a general rule of thumb, a 60-minute panel can get through 15-20 slides and a panelist should speak to only 2-3 slides before giving the floor to another panelist. Set a max number of slides and amount of time.
  • Keep the slides brief and specific to the topic. Consider having additional information in a handout, takeaway or on a website rather than in the slides.
  • Use the organization’s defined format or template, if required.
  • Include the panelist’s contact name and information on their first slide.
  • Keep the slideshow from being dependent on Wi-Fi. Although it may be accessible, it still may not work!
  • Use video judiciously. It can gobble up precious time quickly.

If possible, collect the presentations early to review the slides prior to the event to ensure panelists are addressing the topic, limiting their slide count and minimizing duplication among the panelists’ presentations. Don’t worry about making all the slides look the same – unless the organization has mandated it.

As the panel moderator, I like to assemble one overall slideshow file and be responsible for advancing the slide deck. Preload the file on a single computer so you eliminate the technical difficulties in making multiple laptops work with a single projector. Then, as your panelists speak, you (or the A/V tech) can easily bring up and advance the slides.

Finally, beware of the clever panelist who wants to show a slide or video at the very last minute. Your answer should be a firm and pleasant, “No.”  You didn’t really want slides for your panel discussion, anyway!


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.

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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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