Panels are pervasive. The panel format is widely used at meetings. Ninety-nine percent of respondents have seen a panel format during a meeting in the past 12 months.
Panels are a lazy format. The panel format is considered to be a relatively easy format to produce: the meeting planner picks the topic, finds a moderator, selects the panelists and then moves on to more important aspects of the meeting. Unfortunately, the audience sees this lack of attention and doesn't enter into the panel space with high hopes.
Format needs to be updated. The traditional, boring panel format needs to be reinvigorated to engage and entertain today's audiences.
Skilled facilitation is key to panel success. There is a high degree of correlation between the effectiveness of the moderator and the effectiveness of the panel in achieving the outcomes. Having a skilled facilitator as the moderator is your best insurance policy to creating a successful panel session.
Choose moderators wisely. A company official might not be the wise choice at bringing out the best in panelists. The biggest "pet peeve" is having a poor moderator, with out-of-control panelists following close behind. This makes perfect sense - when you have a skilled moderator, then the panelists will be less likely to get out of control. Yet when you have a lousy moderator, even brilliant panelists can get out of control or miss the mark.
I will add one more: plenty of pre-work. If possible, we get potential questions in advance from the representative audience. I interview and talk to all a panelists before hand. This creates a level of comfort between us. I highlight that this will be a conversation and not a presentation. If possible, I assemble the panelists beforehand, in either a breakfast or dinner meeting so they are comfortable with each other. Lastly, we create a living room set on the stage and I often will move from the stage to be part of the audience and field their questions to the panelists. To find out more please call me at 949-496-8640 to discuss!