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Panelist Preparation in Regulated Industries

I was having a Zoom chit-chat with a new LinkedIn colleague and as we were getting to know each other, he said, “You know what the worst thing is about panels?” I leaned into the camera and asked, “What is the worst thing about panel discussions?”


Frankly, I was surprised at his answer.

“Meeting organizers want big brands represented on the platform – and especially in heavily regulated industries (such as finance, energy), they can’t really say anything unless it’s been vetted by legal. So they all just say stuff we already know and agree with each other.”

Huh! Well, the legal requirement makes sense to the panelists, but not to the audience because all they see is the resulting behaviors. My new friend added, “I went to a panel recently as I was intrigued by the topic. I fell asleep halfway through.”


So here’s the deal, my panelists who come from heavily regulated industries (or super vigilant businesses…), you need to super prepare for this panel. You don’t want people to walk away with nothing, or worse, fall asleep during the discussion!

Just to summarize my post on preparation – with a super-regulated twist!

  1. Chat with the meeting organizer and/or the panel moderator about the scope and boundaries of the topic. Is the intent to dig deep or keep it superficial? What are the guardrails to the discussion and how are the other panelists leaning?
  2. Be thoughtful. Based on your role, diverse viewpoint, and relatability to the audience, determine what contribution can you make to the conversation. If controversial, talk with your legal team about what can and cannot be said. Role-play some questions with the legal team and really push to make sure you are giving value to the attendees.
  3. Look at the format Is it the typical panel format, or will there be some other key areas to engage with the panel moderator, your fellow panelists and/or the audience?
  4. Craft three key messages. Based on what was said above, identify three key messages that will be new to the audience. With each of these key messages, identify an example, a story, demonstration or prop that will make your idea come to life.  And don’t forget a short, “Twitterable” soundbite that audiences will remember after the panel discussion is over.
  5. Have a Final Comment. Think about a final takeaway, insight, or idea you want to leave the audience with.

Finally, run it all past the legal team. Which of course, means you have to do a lot more work than you probably signed up for. BUT if you want to make this an outstanding, powerful panel, you gotta do the work!

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For more information about how to moderate a lively & informative leadership 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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