I get booked to host and moderate a lot of events every year so I get to see at first hand the hard work and forethought that organisers put into making their events really sing. Generally, the right bass notes are: choosing a relevant topic, so people will want to attend, and casting panellists who will energise that topic, share their unique perspectives and opinions with the audience.
And it’s worth putting this effort in, because panel discussions are a good focal point for events that help you connect with customers, colleagues and peers, in a lively and interesting way.
But that’s the key bit – lively and interesting – but the opposite is quite often the case. You know the sort of event I’m talking about: panellist A goes on and on, panellist B barely speaks and panellist C is so nervous they flicker about rather than lighting up the room. Q&A falls a bit flat and everyone shuffles off to do the networking bit.
What’s the secret?
I’m proud to report that I have never had a dud on my watch, so what’s the secret formula? How do you put on a panel that sparkles so you don’t waste your precious time and money on something soporific?
I reckon there are some basics to consider that will help avoid the snooze and get the sizzle into your event…and they are RAPPORT, ENERGY & (think about your) AUDIENCE.
Watch my video for my recipe for sizzle, and what I think of the ubiquitous tub chair.
Chairing a panel is one of my favourite types of work as a professional speaker because I consider it a privilege to ask business people interesting questions, and a pleasure to host my very own BBC Radio 4 style ’round table’ discussion in front of a live audience. I use my business journalism and direct the themes so the audience gets what they came for. And we have a bit of a laugh too, why not.
So perhaps make panel discussions one of your favourite things too – either as an event organiser, an audience participant or as a panellist yourself. And just say NO to boring ones that cost you resources. Make them memorable, interesting and dare I say, make them fun for everyone involved, whether or not there’s a tub chair about.
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Need a great panel chair, event host or moderator? Book Penny for your next event.
Do you want people in your organisation to speak on panels but don’t know how? Penny can help – email her to find out more: firstname.lastname@example.org