How To Run A Great Panel Discussion: A Six-Part Series

This is the introductory post of a six-part series that will teach you how to plan and deliver outstanding panel presentations.

Panel discussions offer audiences a valuable opportunity to hear from several experts in a short amount of time. When conceived and executed thoughtfully, panels can be fast-moving and dynamic discussions that leave audiences with crucial new information and perspectives.

Unfortunately, most panels don’t live up to their potential. They appear simple on the surface — All we have to do is talk for an hour! — and, as a result, moderators and panelists too often fail to give them the attention they deserve.

If anything, panels are more challenging than the typical presentation. In addition to the usual presenting requirements, moderators are tasked with guiding an on-topic conversation, listening carefully to answers and forming meaningful follow-up questions, contending with long-winded speakers, distributing talk time fairly, and managing interactions with the audience.

No wonder it’s challenging to deliver a panel that crackles with energy!

The good news is that with proper planning, you can deliver a panel with oomph, one that sidesteps the obstacles that too often bog them down.

How To Run A Great Panel Discussion A New Six Part Series

If there are just two words that bind together many of the points that will follow, it’s these: embrace unpredictability.

Being unpredictable doesn’t necessarily mean saying shocking things or being overly dramatic, but rather keeping your audience slightly off-balance by asking questions to panelists out of sequence, varying your question types, cutting off filibustering panelists, exploring disagreement, and involving the audience at unexpected moments—and in unexpected ways.

Here’s what we’ll cover in this series: