I recently put together this sample script for a panel discussion in the round, otherwise known as a “fishbowl” format. Thought it might be useful as you try this creative way to crowdsource ideas beyond 3-5 panel members!
“The Stage” – Five chairs in a circle in the middle of the room – Three for pre-selected panelists and two “empty chairs” for those who want to share or ask a question. Each with a cordless handheld microphone on the chair. OR, three microphones to be shared.
Moderator has a cordless handheld microphone.
40 audience chairs should be placed in a circle as close to the stage as possible, staggered so each person is looking between the heads of the two people sitting in front of them.
Sample Script for a Panel Discussion in the Round
1 hour prior – Moderator checks in with the many identified panelists. (Note: it is helpful to have identified people to “seed” the discussion.)
30 minutes prior – Moderator meet up in the room for room set, microphone, and a/v check. (Note: the meeting host put bags of Goldfish crackers on each chair!)
15 minutes prior – Mingle with the audience as they come into the room.
0:00 Welcome and Share Purpose of the Panel and Process
Thank you for coming to this session.
While surveying our members a few months ago, we discovered new and exciting ways we streamlined, enhanced, and grew our businesses in 2021. The ideas were so good, that we wanted to share and ADD TO the ideas in a unique format (and new to our organization) called the “Fishbowl Format.”
So our purpose here today is to create the space for sharing ideas and create a large group discussion where everyone in the audience is encouraged to get involved with questions, comments, ideas, or an “ah ha.”
As a professional panel moderator, I’ll be guiding us through this process. We have a short period of time (only an hour) so we are going to break this into four distinct segments to cover: Wise Product Development, Creative Branding/Marketing, Smarter Financial Management, and Effective and Efficient Organizational/Operational Improvements. This is intended to be a fast-paced sharing of ideas along with the ability to clarify/ask questions at the same time!
You might be wondering, how are we going to do this? The room is set up so different, with five chairs in the center and all of us are sitting in chairs that look at each other! Yep, that is quite deliberate – We’re all looking at the “stage” in the center, aka “The Fishbowl!”
We will start each topic with two or three panelists in the chair…and anyone who has something to share/add/question can come sit in an empty chair. (Note to pre-selected panelists: When I mention the topic, start to move to the chairs. Don’t wait for me to call you up.)
Once the empty chairs are full, if you want to share/add/ask a question, come to the circle and stand behind/put your hand on the shoulder of the person you would like to replace. That person, if they have already shared their idea, must vacate the chair. If a panelist believes they have shared what they can, they may vacate their chair and sit in the audience. (Note to pre-selected panelists – feel free to contribute to any or all of the topics – not just your preselected topic!)
The point is NOT to have a prolonged discussion about the idea, but to get all the ideas out on the table, so you can hunt each other down at the break for more information!
Once conversation seems to wane, I will start another topic.
Sound good? Any questions on how we are going to do this?
0:05 TOPIC ONE: Wise Product Development (Beyond shifting/doubling down on virtual)
Let’s start with our first topic, Wise Product Development. Who has some real world things you did in 2021 when it comes to product development, other than the obvious: we went digital! What, specifically did you do when it comes to product development?
Panelist A – idea mentioned in the survey
Panelist B – idea mentioned in the survey
Panelist C – idea mentioned in the survey
0:15 TOPIC TWO: Creative Marketing and Branding
Let’s move onto our next topic, Creative marketing and branding, beyond “I used LinkedIn.” Who has some real world things you did in 2021 when it comes to creative branding and marketing?
Panelist D – idea mentioned in the survey
Panelist E – idea mentioned in the survey
Panelist F – idea mentioned in the survey
0:30 TOPIC THREE: Smarter Financial Management
Let’s move onto the third and sexiest topic, Smarter Financial Management. Who has some real world things you did in 2021 when it comes to managing the finances of the business better?
Panelist G – idea mentioned in the survey
Panelist H – idea mentioned in the survey
Panelist I – idea mentioned in the survey
0:40 TOPIC FOUR: Effective and Efficient Organizational Improvements
Let’s move onto our last topic, and then we’ll have a fun activity to close this panel. Let’s talk about Effective and Efficient Organizational Improvements – Who has some real world things you did in 2021 that made the organization and/or operations run more smoothly?
Wow! Check out all these ideas! We had quite a year – and perhaps you gained some inspiration for things you can do to continue to grow the business.
We’re close to the end of our time together. This time, let’s play Musical Chairs! Our final question is this: “How are you leveraging your fellow members to support your business?” I’m going to play some music and the five people closest to the stage MUST sit down and answer the question! Note to pre-selected panelists – it would be absolutely awesome if you came prepared to answer this question and sit in one of the chairs at some point!
Thank you! And don’t forget to hunt down that panelist who had such a great idea that you wanted more time to chat! The general session reconvenes at 1pm in Salon 3. Have a great lunch!
KRISTIN ARNOLD, MBA, CSP, CPF | Master, professional panel moderator, and high stakes meeting facilitator is on a quest to make all panel discussions lively and informative. Check out her free 7 -part video series on how to moderate a panel and other resources to help you organize, moderate, or be a panel member.
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.