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Every day, Google sends me the links to any article posted on the Internet that contains the words “panel discussion,” “panel moderator” or “panel moderation.” I scan the article for any tidbits of wisdom and then “pin” the picture of the panel on Pinterest.

I don’t pin just any picture. It must be a picture of what appears, at first glance, to be an entire panel.

After a while, I realized I had captured a random sample of photos that could tell us what the “typical” panel looks like. How cool is that? As a professional meeting facilitator and expert in moderating panels, there is this pervasive sense that the moderator is standing behind a lectern and the panelists are situated behind a long white-draped table. The moderator and panelists are white boomer males (otherwise known as a “manel”).

What’s your theory? What do you think the “typical” panel looks like?

Well, here’s what the data says:

The typical panel is a live discussion about a business topic conducted in the United States. There are four to five people on the panel dressed in business attire.  

The moderator is a Gen X/Y Caucasian man, sitting stage right using a handheld microphone.

The 3-4 panelists are primarily Gen X/Y, more male than female, and have a mix of ethnicities. They are sitting in couch-like chairs in a straight row on a 1’-3’ platform. There may or may not be a table in front of the panelists, but if there is, you’ll find a few water bottles.

There is a sign or poster with the conference name and logo behind the panelists with a projection screen in the center.

Does this reinforce or debunk your own theories about what panels actually look like?


Yes, it is interesting information. But here’s the challenge: What can you do to make your panels more interesting and diverse than other panel discussions?  Don’t do what everyone else does. Why not zig while others zag? Add a little visual pizzazz to your panel!

Note: I will be publishing this information in a white paper.  Stay tuned!

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:

Powerful Panel Discussion Tip #86 with Scott Kirsner: The Biggest Fear in Moderating a Panel

Advice for Panel Moderators to Have a Powerful 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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