Professional Panel Moderator Kristin Arnold asks Brian Walter, Founder of Extreme Meetings and member of the US Speaker Hall of Fame to share his opinion on the ideal number of panelists to have on a panel discussion at a meeting, conference, or convention.  He’s a freakin’ brilliant meetings maestro who amps up the energy, engages audiences as a way of life.


Video Transcript

Kristin: Brian, what is the ideal number of panelists in a panel discussion?

Brian: three, four, five at the most, because if you have more than that you have—a lot of times executives would say, “Let’s put our entire executive committee up there,” and there’s 14 people up there. Now, the reality is the reason they’re doing that is their saying any possible question, we’ll be able to have that person answer it. So their intent is not bad, it’s just the reality of that means the vast majority of them will sit there awkwardly on stools and squirm. Because they’re not going to get a question or they’re going to get one question.

Or, it’s even going to be worse where it’s like three of them are going to get 80% of the questions and the others are sitting there going, “Why am I here…?” It’s much better to have fewer people on stage who answer more and then they do a lot of shout outs to another person who should be—let’s say it’s for a company, and you’ve got senior executives up there, and they get a question that doesn’t actually apply to one of the senior executives. It’s actually very cool in the moment for you to say, “Actually that’s a question for the marketing—do we have Mary? Mary, are you here?” “Oh, yeah here I am.” “Mary, let’s do a shout out here.” So Mary stands up, or mic runner runs to her and she answers the question in an interesting way and that’s actually cool for the audience because that feels spontaneous and real once you haven’t cluttered up the stage with a cavalcade of people who don’t talk.

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Kristin Arnold, professional panel moderator, and high stakes meeting facilitator is on a crusade to make all panel discussions informative, interactive, and interesting.   Specifically, she wants to help YOU become a better panel moderator.  Why?  Because 95% of annual meetings have panel discussions – and according to the 2014 Panel Report, it’s a fifty-fifty proposition they are any good at all!  Expectations decrease dramatically when your attendees walk in and see the traditional draped head-table with microphones on short stands.  There are sooooo many other ways to have a stimulating conversation!  So let’s increase the probability of success for your next panel discussion with these resources.

And, you can always go back to the playlist for more Powerful Panel Discussion Tips!

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