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December 2, 2020

Thanksgiving is this week – hooray!  It’s my absolute favorite holiday of the year. It is a special time to reflect on all the blessings we have.  Especially this year, I am so grateful for our health, happiness, family, and friends.

So it is no wonder that I started thinking about how we show our appreciation to our panelists for sharing their brilliance during a panel discussion.  Considering that most panelists are doing this as a courtesy to you or your organization, one or two of these ideas will make them feel better about the whole experience:

Ways to Thank a Panelist in a Way They Will Appreciate

The Gift of Attention.  Especially if your panelists are traveling from another city, treat them as “Very Important People” – the VIPs that they are:

  • Meet Them.  Have someone to pick them up/drop them off at the airport.
  • Dine.  Take them to a special restaurant, spending time to get to know them and their interests.
  • Tour.  Arrange for a tour of the town or desirable attraction.
  • Compliment.  Say something nice about their participation on the panel.
  • Seek Them Out. After the panel, make it a point to personally and genuinely thank each panelist for a job well done!

Physical Gifts.  

  • Welcome Note.  When the panelist arrives, there is a warm note of welcome waiting for them at the registration table, hotel check-in, or in their room.
  • Basket. If staying at a hotel, have a small collection of useful goodies or munchies.  They might be tired and appreciate a light snack or beverage.
  • Thank You Note.  Send a personal email or handwritten note including a specific contribution they made to the panel.
  • Photo.  Send a photo of the panelist sharing their brilliance with the audience.
  • Framed Photo.  Take it to the next step and frame that photo!
  • Video. If you captured the panel discussion on video, send them the file or a link to download the file.
  • Swag.  The conference may have some great promotional items that they are giving to the attendees.  Don’t forget your panelists!
  • Memento.  Does your organization’s brand have something that you can leverage into a gift?  General Mills gave me a box of Wheaties with my picture on it.  Love that!
  • Creative Gift. Think of a gift that captures the essence of the location or the theme of the conference.  For example, I had personalized sand candles made for a conference held in a beach resort in Marco Island, Florida.  I still have mine!
  • Personalized Gift.  Tap into the interests and hobbies of the panelists.  One of my clients knows I love a good dirty martini, so she gave me a set of hand-crafted martini glasses. (I still have those too!).
  • Director Chair.  My absolute favorite is to ship the chair we bought for each panelist, complete with their name embossed on the back panel!


  • Charity.  Give a donation in their name to their favorite charity.
  • Foundation.  Perhaps the organization has a foundation.  Give a donation on their behalf.
  • Interests.  Tap into their interests and hobbies. I had a panelist who loves dogs, so we made a donation to the local animal shelter.

I’m sure there are other ideas – and I’d love to hear what you do to thank your panelists for participating in a panel discussion!

Related Articles

How to Organize a Panel Discussion

How to Facilitate a Virtual Meeting: Roles, Tips, & Responsibilities

What to Look For When Hiring a Meeting Facilitator

Stretch your Leadership Team’s Ability to Think Strategically

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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