Tactful Transitions to Move the Audience Through a Panel Discussion

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I’m a big fan of chunking up a panel discussion into bite-sized segments.  For example, if you take a look at the traditional panel format, you can chunk it up into these pieces – each lasting 4-6 minutes:

  • Welcome
  • Introductions
  • Moderator-Curated Questions
    • Theme A
    • Theme B
    • Theme C
  • Audience Q&A
    • Instructions on how you’ll be doing this
    • Solicit Questions/Panelist Answers
  • Summary/Close

Once you have a solid structure in place, you can add more pizazz and make it livelier by thinking through the transitions between each segment – how you can move the audience from one segment to the next.

Types of Transitions Between Segments During a Panel Discussion

  • Simple Thank You.  Thank the panelists for their comments and move on to the next question.
  • Reactions.  Share your personal observation or reflection on what was said during that segment and move on to the next question.
  • Suggest a Call To Action.  Reiterate a key point to remember or an action to take based on the conversation.  Move on to the next question.
  • Preview the Next Question.  Show your excitement, enthusiasm, and interest in the next question – and then ask it!
  • Connect Two Dots.  Summarize a key point from the discussion and relate it to the next question.
  • Connect Multiple Dots.  Comment on a thread of themes or differences of opinion you’ve been hearing throughout the event with a lead into the next point of view.
  • Shift Gears.  Give the audience a verbal cue that you are going to move into a new segment.  I like to use the phrase, “We’re going to shift gears here.”  The audience will literally lean forward to find out what you are going to do next!
  • Activity.  Ask the panelists and/or audience to engage in an activity (shameless plug for my book: 123 Ways to Add Pizazz to a Panel Discussion for ideas!)

Think through the transitions between segments during the panel discussion, but try not to over-prepare.  You’ll want to be “in the moment” – using your active listening skills and being able to react to what has been said as you help the audience move from one segment to the next.

Related Articles

How to Create GREAT Questions for Your Panelists to Answer during Your Panel Discussion

How to Structure a Panel Discussion

How to Moderate a Virtual Panel Discussion

For more information about how to moderate a lively & informative panel discussion, check out our free 7-part video series on how to moderate a panel and other resources to help you organize, moderate, or be a panel member.

Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash

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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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