Somewhere at the beginning of your panel discussion, the panelists need to be introduced. You would think this is a simple task. There are several choices the meeting organizer and/or panel moderator must make in order to serve the audience the best experience.
Take too long, you can quickly turn the audience off. Don’t say anything at all, and you may confuse an audience who doesn’t know the panelists.
As a professional panel moderator, I clearly have a preference, but then again, given the situation, I modify my choices to reflect what would be best for the audience.
The Choices to Make in Planning Panelist Introductions
- Placement in the Opening of the Program. The first few minutes of the session are critical so you want to start strong; introduce the topic and the panelists; clarify your role, the agenda, and the process; announce any housekeeping items; and anything else you want to throw in there! These are standard opening items that can be done in any order you desire. What makes sense? Start with housekeeping or end with housekeeping? Introduce the panelists at the end of this opening segment?
- Who Introduces.
- The Moderator. Especially when you have more than four panelists, you need to make sure you get through the introductions quickly
- Panelist Introduces Self. Allows each panelist to loosen up and connect with the crowd
- Panelist Introduces Another Panelist (I rarely see this – but it is a possibility)
- No One Introduces. If you believe everyone on the panel is already well-known to the audience, consider skipping the introductions. Put up a summary slide and get down to business!
- Length of the Introduction.
- Super Short – two sentences
- Short – a paragraph
- Medium – two paragraphs
- Long – half a page
- Too Long – Go ahead and put everyone to sleep!
- Types of Introductions
- Read the intro
- Share a concise story and relevant experience
- Share a little-known fact
- Make an observation that ties all the panelists together
- Weave their experience into the first question tailored to a specific panelist
- Timing of Introductions
- Introduce all the panelists all at once
- Introduce a panelist, one at a time
- Introduce a grouping of panelists, each group at a time
- Panelist Walk On/Camera On
- All on stage/camera on at the beginning of the panel
- Each panelist walks on/camera on as being introduced
- All panelists walk on/camera on after all the introductions are made
- Seating and Seating Order
- In the same order as they are introduced
- Take a random chair!
- Intentionally place panelists in a specific order
- Visuals to Support the Introduction
- One slide that has all panelist photos, names, and key facts
- One slide for each panelist that has a photo, name, and key facts
- Bios in the promotional materials/meeting app
There is no “right way” or “wrong way” to do panelist introductions. Just be thoughtful about the choices you are making on behalf of the audience’s experience of the panel discussion!
How to Organize a Panel Discussion
How to Start a Panel Discussion
How to Create GREAT Questions for Your Panelists to Answer during Your Panel Discussion
Panel Discussion Tip #185 with Jeffrey Hayzlett: Finishing Panel Discussions
For more information about how to moderate a lively & informative panel discussion, check out our free 7-part video series or our other resources to help you organize, moderate, or be a panel member.