I’m always looking for ways to add a little pizazz to an otherwise boring panel discussion, and one of the best ways is to mimic a talk show format (e.g. David Letterman).

In these times of intense political presidential debates, you might want to consider the rather controversial format using the talk show “Crossfire” with a dose of “60 Minutes” as well!

As with all of these talk show formats, brainstorm all the things they do in that show…and then see how many you can replicate, spoof, or make fun of!

Then, create an agenda that will leverage that talk show format, while also delivering on the stated promise/objectives of the session.

For the Crossfire format, determine whether you want a neutral panel moderator and diverse panelists or you want to stay true to the Crossfire format where each side of the aisle (liberal and conservative) served as the moderator for each question.  Then create a list of 20 numbered provocative questions/statements related to the topic. Distribute them to the panelists as part of your pre-work or as they arrive.

Here’s a format I have used:

  • Welcome, Format Overview, Agenda and Ground Rules . Moderator clearly re-states the topic to be discussed. (2 mins)
  • Moderator (or Panelist “A”) introduces one of the statements and Panelist “A” explains whether he/she agrees or disagrees and why. (1 min)
  • Moderator (or Panelist “A”) solicits points of view from other panelists (particularly those with differing opinions. (4 mins)
  • Moderator (or Panelist “A”) asks the audience (live & virtual) for feedback. (4 mins)
  • Moderator (or Panelist “A”) refocuses/asks Panelist “B” to pick another question. (5 mins)
  • Moderator (or Panelist “B”) introduces one of the statements and Panelist “B” explains whether he/she agrees or disagrees and why. (1 min)
  • Moderator (or Panelist “B”) solicits points of view from other panelists (particularly those with differing opinions. (4 mins)
  • Moderator (or Panelist “B”) asks for audience feedback. (4 mins)
  • Moderator (or Panelist “B”) refocuses/asks Panelist “C” to pick another question. (5 mins)
  • Moderator (or Panelist “C”) introduces one of the statements and explains whether he/she agrees or disagrees and why. (1 min)
  • Keep the rotation going… you should be able to get at least six provocatives questions on the table and discussed.
  • At two minutes to go, have the moderator or a panelist summarize the discussion.  Say your “thank you’s” and provide any administrative directions (where to go next, evaluation forms, instructions for the book signing) (2 mins)

Adjourn and have a great day – knowing that you have incited discussion in the hallways after such a exhilarating panel discussion!
For more resources on how to make panels better, make sure to check out this knowledge vault which is chock-full of customizable checklists, worksheets, templates, agendas, sample emails, video interviews and webinars with industry icons and professional moderators.

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Kristin Arnold, professional panel moderator and high stakes meeting facilitator, shares her best practices for interactive, interesting, and engaging panel presentations. For more resources like this, or to have Kristin moderate your next panel visit the Powerful Panels official website.

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