The Cure for Boring Panel Discussions

Motivational Speaker Try to Get Crowd's AttentionI was a motivational speaker for a food services industry conference. Just before my talk, they hosted a panel that essentially put the audience to sleep.

An industry panel is made up of a handful of (usually 4 or 5) industry experts who host a question and answer period in front of the audience. 

It sounds like a great idea, yet many panels turn out to be boring and directionless. Some panelists seem to talk on and on just to hear their voice, while others take the conversation into unusual places while still others barely contribute.

What is it that makes a panel of wise industry experts so hard to relate to? The main reason is preparation.

tips to help moderate an Inspiring Learning Panel

The moderator and panelists need to huddle together before the session to plan the questions & answers in advance. Encourage (actually -insist!) panelist keep their answers short. Have a visual cue that says wrap it up in case someone monopolizes the discussion.

Don't waste time with long introductions of the members of the panel, this can be done in the program guide. Most audiences are also very good with Google and they can look up if they need to.

Instead, you can quickly have people state their name and give a quick reason they are asked to be on this panel.

Don't expect every panel member to answer every question. In fact, prep them in advance to suggest they only contribute if they have something to add. We don't need to hear 5 perspectives on the same thing, especially if those perspectives are all the same.

Ask questions of the audience early on to warm them up. The whole reason to have a panel is for real time conversation. 

tips to generate engaging discussion

  • Ask questions of the audience, have them discuss it with people at their table (i.e. what is the greatest challenge with your payroll platform?).
  • Next, quickly survey the audience to generate their responses.
  • Ask the question of the panel.
  • Ask the audience for any further, clarifying questions.

This creates a conversation that engages the audience in real time questions. The discussion gravitates to panel members who share their best practices. Excitement is created by the audience and the panel contributes to it. 

End the session with a memorable takeaway message! Keep it as upbeat, fun, and interactive as possible.


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