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The typical panel discussion structure consists of seven specific tasks:

  1. Welcome. The panel moderator welcomes the audience.  Tees up the topic and explains why it is a timely and important topic to discuss in this format (whatever format that might be!).
  2. Introductions. The panelists are introduced to the audience – either the moderator introduces them or they introduce themselves.
  3. Presentations. All panelists provide an overview or specific description of the topic.  This can range from a quick statement or paragraph to a full-blown formal presentation.  (Although Harry Overstreet, the “father” of the panel discussion would be rolling over in his grave if he only knew a panelist was rising to give a presentation!)
  4. Questions. The panel moderator directs curated questions to the panelists or asks questions solicited from the audience.
  5. Q&A. Questions are taken from the audience and directed to a panelist(s).
  6. Summary. The conversation is summarized for take-away value either by the panel moderator, the panelists or the audience.
  7. Thank you. The panel moderator congratulates all and sends the audience on their way to the next event.

The panel moderator may opt to do all seven tasks, omit some or design another unique format. No panel discussion format is perfect, just make sure it meets the stated objectives that add value to the audience.

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:

How to Organize a Panel Discussion

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


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.

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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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