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Panelist is Missing

One of your panelists is missing. The panel is about to start and either they never showed up to the venue or they are now missing in action (MIA). It’s easy to freak out. What are you going to do?


When a panelist is missing, you can take several steps to manage the situation effectively:

  1. Assess the Situation: Understand the severity of the absence. Is it a critical panelist? Is there a backup plan in place?
  2. Communicate with the Organizer: Contact the panel organizer to find out if the missing panelist has notified them about their absence. They might have information on any last-minute changes or replacements.
  3. Adjust Panel Format: Depending on the panelist’s role and the importance of their presence, you may need to adjust the panel format. This could involve redistributing speaking time among the present panelists or reorganizing the discussion topics.
  4. Inform the Audience: If appropriate, inform the audience about the missing panelist. Transparency can help manage expectations and maintain credibility.
  5. Facilitate Audience Engagement: Use the absence as an opportunity to engage the audience. Encourage questions or comments from the audience to fill the gap left by the missing panelist.
  6. Consider Alternatives: Explore alternatives such as inviting an audience member or another expert to join the panel at the last minute (if feasible and appropriate).
  7. Cover the Missing Panelist’s Points: If possible, the moderator or other panelists can briefly cover the missing panelist’s key points to ensure the audience still receives valuable information on the topic.
  8. Stay Flexible: Be prepared to adapt on the spot. Flexibility is key in managing unforeseen circumstances during a panel discussion.
  9. Maintain Professionalism: Regardless of the situation, stay cool, calm, and collected. It will be fine. The world will not come to an end as you will ensure the panel discussion continues smoothly.
  10. Follow-Up: After the panel discussion, follow up with the missing panelist to understand the reason for their absence and discuss any implications for future events.

Every situation is different, but you don’t have to freak out. You now have several ideas about how you can effectively handle the absence of a panelist and ensure the smooth continuation of the discussion for the benefit of the audience.

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For more information about how to moderate a lively & informative panel discussion, check out our free 7-part video series on how to moderate a panel and other resources to help you organize, moderate, or be a panel member.

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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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