Panel discussions masterclass

Penny Haslam Panel Discussions - The Ultimate Guide - By Penny Haslam

Panel discussions masterclass

In this panel discussions masterclass, Penny Haslam and guests share their best advice on moderating and appearing on panel discussions.

The event was held to mark the book launch for Panel Discussions - The Ultimate Guide - By Penny Haslam.

Panel Discussions is the ultimate guide to moderating and appearing on panel discussions. 

  • Prepare for success and drive a dynamic panel discussion, as a moderator.
  • Confidently share your expertise and insight as a relatable and memorable panellist.
  • Engage your audience and speak so people listen, both from the stage and through the camera lens.

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Panel discussions masterclass - Transcript

Let's get started with a masterclass about panel discussions and a book launch. 

First of all, how many of you have ever been on a panel? Just put a Yes. In the chatbox.

Panel discussions, shake hands with the whole room

I'm here to encourage you onto panels today and to share a few ideas about how you might do that really well. And if you've already taken part in panels, what you're going to get from today is some ideas about how you might do that. Even better. Because it is an opportunity, isn't it an opportunity to shake hands with the whole audience in one go. The minute you're at the front of the room, you're seen somehow as an expert. 

So here we are, a master class, and who is here because they're panel curious? I just always wondered how the hell it all works. You've maybe been to one. You've seen one. Maybe they're on in the afternoon of a big conference. You attended, you thought who's the moderator? How did they get that job? Who are these panellists and how did they know what to say? 

Panel discussions have become the mainstay of all sorts of events

Or maybe you want to be putting on your own event and bringing a panel together, and you want to know how it works. So yeah, panels are really interesting, and they've never used to be as popular as they are now. They used to be the preserve of huge conferences. Big expo's global positioning for things like Davos or big tech expo's in Barcelona or whatever. 

Only recently have they really become a mainstay of events, and they are a fantastic way to bring together some experts or people who know some stuff and have got the experience to talk about it. And for event organisers, it's a really nice way to mix up the day of not just having a speaker and then another speaker and then another speaker. So having a panel sort of gives a bit of texture to the day and brings three or four voices, maybe five or seven voices. I've even heard of a panel where they had seven people on, um, to talk about their topic and their shared area of interest. 

Panellists get the benefits on big stage speaking without the work

So it is a really good way for the individual on the panel, not the moderator so much. That is a big job, and we'll come onto that in a minute. Um, the panellists are let off the hook a little bit in that they don't have to prepare a big keynote with slides. Some people prefer being on panels in that regard. So my book, my handbook, is a way to help more people be even better on panels and say yes to panels in the first place. It'll help you stand out, so you're memorable for all the right reasons. We want to be memorable for the right reasons, don't we? 

I've been moderating and taking part in panels now for about 10 years

 I don't quite remember my first-ever panel discussion, but I do remember thinking it's a little bit like having your own radio show, maybe your own BBC Radio 4 round table discussion. And I really liked it because it meant that I got to ask some questions, but I didn't have to do the heavy lifting of actually knowing the answers. I love that and I became more curious about how panels worked and how you could do it really well and how panellists could shine because some of them are a little bit boring, panels can be really boring. So the first book that I wrote, Make Yourself a Little Bit Famous, is a business communication handbook to help you raise your profile. It has actually got a section on panels in it but it was so popular that I've decided it would be a good idea to put it into one big book, had more detailed loads of free panel discussion resources about how to approach panels and get on with it and enjoy them. 

Panel Discussion - The Ultimate Guide

That's ultimately my aim. And there aren't many top books on this topic at all. And there's certainly not one that's been written with the new virtual world in mind. So there are lots of tips in my book about how to do this really well, virtually. And I'm hoping I'll be able to demonstrate that in a little while when we get into the actual panel discussion. And just like my first book, Panel Discussions - The Ultimate Guide is available in paperback, kindle and as an audiobook. 

This panel discussion masterclass

So this session today for you right now is going to be education. It's going to be inspirational and entertaining. Hopefully, we're going to have some fun, and it's going to be pacey, So no sluggishness here. We want energy in our panel discussions and our masterclasses. So in a moment, I'll be sharing three top tips for moderators and three top tips for panellists. And then we get to meet the fab four people who have got lots of experience on panels and in moderating them and taking part. And they'll be sharing their methods and ideas for making panels go really well as well. And throughout the session, there are going to be three lucky winners of the book panel discussions. I'll even sign it for you! I know what a giveaway! So, three winners. And also, before we finish, I'll be giving away two hours of free coaching to you using the same method. So that's a valuable prize to win, worth about £1000 plus VAT. So that's that. So let's get started and just remind ourselves what a panel looks like. 

What does a panel look like? 

Well, in person, it looks a little like that, doesn't it? Remember, there's a big packed out room, no one bothering with masks or whatever and if you look at her little face, the woman on the far left there who is obviously holding the room in that panel moment, she is loving it. She's absolutely loving it. She's saying some interesting stuff. The panellists are looking at her, and everyone's got their eyes on her. 

(@ 7.56 on video)

It was about women entrepreneurs in the freelancing world, and those people were talking about it. A lovely panel discussion, for sure. But of course, over the last two years, we've become very familiar with them looking a bit like this. 

(@8.33 on video)

In this discussion with a few of my speaker colleagues, we were talking about how to raise your profile and keep your profile out there during the lockdown.

(@8.59 on video)

This particular debate was something that was put on every month in Manchester. I was the host in the middle, and it's just nice to look at the difference in the way that things are laid out. Actually, everyone's having a good time. Even though we're talking about, should we pay more tax? It was a fun event talking about that. We're behind a trestle table and although I've got my own microphone there's only one between two on the rest of the table. 

Panel discussions come in all shapes and sizes 

At this one I moderated, although there are lapel mics on each of the individual panellists, I felt really far really removed from the discussion because of the shape of the stage and where the lectern was.

(@9.39 on video)

I couldn't really join them as a sort of moderator there. Nonetheless, when you turn up as a moderator or panellist, you've kind of got to expect anything. 

So quick question for you. And if you can think about this, maybe I want to share this one. It's a bit closer. 

(@10.18 on video)

So close. In fact, the gentleman to my left can have a quick look, I think he's looking at my notes, Um, to see what the next question is. I'm not sure. 

What is a "manel?"

But just to let you know that panels do come in all shapes and sizes, this kind of panel is on the way out. This panel is not really happening anymore. It's what's called a "manel", an all-male panel. If you look on any social media channels or you do hashtag #manel, this kind of image turns up. So I'm the moderator, so I don't really count. But, you know, in fairness to the event organiser, the gentleman to my left was meant to be a woman. But she bailed out and he turned up in her stead. So, there we go all-male panels. If you get a chance to join one, say no. If you're a bloke, always ask who the other panellists are and if you're a woman, this is why you should be putting yourself forward as a panellist or moderator to take part because event organisers will love you for it.

Panel discussions masterclass - Three top tips for panel moderators

Let me share with you three top tips for moderators. There are loads of tips, loads of techniques you can use as well. But let me share three with you now before we get into the panel discussion. 

When you get asked to moderate a panel, get involved right from the get-go

Don't wait for the event organiser to send you things or ask you to have a meeting. Don't wait, be really proactive and make suggestions for the topics to be discussed. And even suggest the panellists and the lineup, especially if you're worried there's not much diversity on that panel. Get under the skin of the topic. So you begin to research and prepare.

Write a moderators script

The second, slightly bigger tip actually is about having a script. Now different moderators will have different approaches. So, my serving suggestion in the book is that you do actually have a script, and there are reasons for that. Not just to remind you what your questions are or anything, but to keep you on time, really keep you tight on time because part of your job is to start well and finish bang on time. So you serve your audience really well and really, for me, a script is a comfort blanket in case I lose my mind. You know, I'm perimenopausal. I sometimes can't actually remember any words, So, remembering people's names and things like that is a real hazard. I tend to write everything down it's on my knee during a panel discussion. That's fine. 

Moderators script ideas

Let me just share with you a couple of ideas about how you set out your scrip, you do it in your own way or you could follow it this way. I tend to go the whole hog. I tend to do the whole title, the date, the venue, the location and all of the detail that follows. So let's look at that. I write down the running order. If there's other stuff going on, I want to know what that is. Just at a glance. You know, we're all busy people. We tend to have a lot of information to deal with, remembering what time my panel discussion is starting or what's on before isn't easy. So, I always make it really simple for myself and helpful for myself. 

So 8.20am I'm starting, and I'm saying thanks to Tony for introducing me, and then I'm off. I know it's my show then. I page number things. And I put the number in the top right-hand corner because if you've got a script on your lap and you're in a Boris Johnson muddle with your paperwork, you might not see the page number down underneath your arm, perhaps, or you're holding it and you're covering it. So top right-hand corner, little cheeky tip, their dead simple. And then I put down my topics for discussion, not the specific questions that I'm going to ask, but more like questions that I can use and just come up with on the day so I wouldn't actually read those out loud. I glance at them while someone was speaking and go right. Okay, Next, I want to ask about when should a business owner think about seeking finance? But I'll let them go on a bit first and then I'll jump in with that and maybe I'll say it differently. I wouldn't ever share my questions with panellists because they might end up preparing really diligently to answer that question. I tended to keep it broad and interesting.

Panel discussions masterclass - Top tips for panelists  

Okay, so let's move on, panellists, top tips. I'm gonna rattle through these because we're going to hear a lot more from the panellists in our panel discussion in a moment. But first of all, the big one that I think is of value to panellists is to work out your air time.

Work out how much time you have to speak as a panelist

It's possibly something you haven't considered before is to work out how long you might have as a team player on that panel. So say we've got 30 minutes and there are four panellists, and there's a moderator. 30 minutes divided by five is I think it's around six minutes each. You've just got six minutes, which is no time at all. So when you know that, that can help inform your preparation. Now I know that people go really into prep and they might think, I've got a panel tomorrow, I've been preparing all night or all day. I've been spending all my time preparing. Why? Because if you've only got six minutes to say some stuff, just prepare a few really good points and maybe expect to say half of them. You never know what might happen. Okay, so that's my top tip is to think about your air time. 

Prepare some interesting stuff to say

Preparation should include some interesting stuff to say. Really think about examples. So a time when a lot of panel discussions are issues based, just talking about topics, that can become a bit of a talking shop. But if you prepare some examples, that's when it becomes really memorable. And the audience really listens because we're all nosey and we want to know about your experience or your example of a time when, or this happened to me. I didn't know about this, and now I do, and I learned it because, or a client said to me last week that this is happening. Bring it alive, bring your point alive with an example.

On a Zoom panel, look at the lens

Number three is to look into the lens when you're online. So when you're on a stage you're naturally probably going to be drawn to the moderator. You might also be interacting with the other panellists and giving them eye contact. And then, when you're feeling a little bit more confident, you probably look at the audience and involve them as well. But when you're online, where are you going to look? And there's only really one place to look, and that's into the camera. And really, there's only ever one person listening or watching an online event because they're at home or in their office, so it's quite intimate. You don't need to be the big broadcaster, amplifying your message being larger than life, but you can have quite an intimate relationship with your audience member by looking into the lens. So those are three top tips on how to be a panellist. 

Penny Haslam is an award winning motivational speaker, who inspires audiences with her keynote talks about communication and confidence.