Engage Your Panel Audience Early and Often
March 28, 2014
Avoid the Hot Potato or Ping Pong Effect During Panel Discussions
April 4, 2014

In a recent survey of 539 executives, thought leaders and meeting professionals, I asked the question, “What’s your absolute, biggest pet peeve” about panel discussions at meetings, conferences and conventions.

Since this was an open-ended question, the comments were all over the map:

I then categorized the open-ended answers to develop this list of the top biggest pet peeves – and a potential solution or countermeasure:


1.  Ineffective Moderator.  A moderator who does not facilitate the conversation and intervene when necessary.  Make sure you select or hire a moderator who is a skilled facilitator.


2. Dominating Panelists.  A panelist who speaks much more than the rest of the panelists or who takes too much time to make the point.  Have a strong moderator to set and enforce the ground rules.


3.  Ill-Prepared.  Both moderators (55%) AND panelists (45%) who do not prepare for the panel discussion.  The moderator and panelists should do the work and come prepared.


4.  “Out of Control” Panelists.  Panelists who either consciously or unconsciously pursue their own agenda without regard to the format or the promise to the audience.  Have a strong facilitator who sets the expectations with the panelists and who isn’t afraid to intervene quickly.


5.  Too Much Self-Promotion.  Panelists (90%) AND moderators (10%) who use the format to shamelessly promote themselves, their company, a product or a service.  Set the expectations with the panelists that self-promotion or self-aggrandizement will not be tolerated – and then intervene quickly when it starts to happen.


6.  No Audience Engagement.  A focus on the panelists and no opportunity to engage or interact with the audience.  Engage the audience beyond just the Q&A.  Engage early and often.


7.  Off Topic.  The panel discussion wanders off the topic or the conversation has no resolution/doesn’t make a point.  Panelists should come prepared with a few key points.  Stay on topic.  Make the point concisely.


8.  Not Conversational.  The panelists did not engage in a conversation with each other.  For example, it may have been a series of mini-presentations or a “ping-pong” interview with the moderator.  Create a format that makes the experience conversational.


9.  Poor Time Management.  The moderator did not budget for or use the time economically or didn’t enforce the time limits.  Create and follow an agenda with time limits.


10.  Too Many Panelists.  Too many panelists for a real conversation to take place.  The optimum number of panelists is 3-4. Otherwise, you can’t hear from everyone.


In taking a look at this list, all of these pet peeves are preventable.  It all comes down to choosing an intriguing subject,  great moderator and interesting, qualified panelists.


What are your biggest pet peeves – and how have you seen them prevented or dealt with?

For more resources on how to make panels 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:

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Kristin Arnold, professional panel moderator and high stakes meeting facilitator, shares her best practices for interactive, interesting, and engaging panel presentations. For more resources like this, or to have Kristin moderate your next panel visit the Powerful Panels official website.

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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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