Powerful Panel Discussion Tip with Patricia Fripp #121: What Chair Do You Prefer at Panels?

What type of chair do you prefer to use for panel discussions? Kristin Arnold, Professional Panel Moderator asked this question of Patricia Fripp, Executive Speaker coach and member of the US Speaker Hall of Fame.

Video Transcript

Kristin: What kind of chairs do you prefer to use in a panel discussion?

Patricia: I was just at a conference, New Media Expo and they had several panels that were almost like sofas, and they were very comfortable which led people to be very comfortable. Now I have short little legs because Jeanie Robertson, who of course is our friend who is 6 foot 2, always teases me because we were sitting on an airplane and she said, “Patricia, your feet do not touch the floor!” So, one, you have to be careful if the sofa is too deep, if you have someone who is short, you really need pillows because if I go back, I look like a child when I sink in. If you are going to have high stools, you have to tell women because if they wear short skirts, it is very difficult to get up and down and look elegant. If a woman is going to be on a high stool, either you need to rehearse doing it or probably, well, you might have a dress or a skirt but you do not want it so that when you sit down it shrinks right up to your bottom. That will, of course, no one will ever hear what you are saying or probably anybody else. If I know that, I am usually going to where slacks and you have to practice getting on and off the stool. I liked the sofa but this is what I noticed, this was a techy conference, New Media Expo and I made notes, I did not even know you were going to interview me but this is fabulous.

If you are on a panel, but there is no table, you are sitting on the sofa; you do not want to show the soles of your shoes. I even drew little diagrams in my notes of how the shoes were. It is amazing what people did with their feet, they were all men. There was one man and he was a superstar, to do television and radio, he was a star. He was elegantly well dressed and he had fabulous shoes, in fact someone noticed on his shoes and they were beautiful in colorful. See, you are sitting on stage with nothing in front of you and so his feet were going… And it is almost like I am hypnotized because of his little feet. He was going up these beautiful, the edges were white and the top was like two colors, tan and navy, they were beautiful shoes, but he kept going like this. Because they had a white edge, it is almost like you could not hear what he was saying and then the other people, the way they had the leg over something. There was another one, they were showing the soles of their shoes. So you have to sit, because if I am on a sofa and as I say, I have to sit closer to the edge so that my feet can be on the ground. That is what you have to practice. But do not show, it is like you do not want to show the top of your head, you do not want to show the soles of your shoes, especially if you have a label on or if they are very well worn.



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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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