At Connect Marketplace 2017, I was talking with Matt Dadey about an innovative panel format he experienced at the World Education Congress.  They had three panels that occurred throughout the one-hour session – with NO pre-selected panelists!  Matt explained, “None of it was pre-planned which is pretty much a planner’s dream come true!  Locking down and prepping panelists is one of the reasons I personally get stressed out when I think about panels.”

Obviously, the panel moderator put a little bit of thought into the design of the panels, but it’s a pretty simple process to follow (as described by Matt):

Once the session started, the moderator explained the format:

  1. She would ask a starter question such as, “Rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10 of your knowledge on contract negotiations.  Use the left wall for 1 and the right wall for 10 as the scale.”
  2. The participants then got up and stood where they think they would rate their knowledge on that topic.
  3. The moderator then selected three people who had the most knowledge on that topic from the “10” area  – or the three people closest to the right wall.  These three experts then make up the first panel.  The audience asks questions and those panelists give insight.

The second panel is rinse and repeat, but on a harder topic.  This one is a tad more difficult, because now people know what’s going on!  The moderator will probably have to pick from the 7 to 8 range since the audience will naturally shift left a bit in fear of being on a panel.  That’s okay though. The point of this class is primarily to encourage peer discussion.

The third panel was held in the same way in their format, but Matt’s idea is to “flip the script.”  For this panel, the moderator would pull from the left wall and have them ask questions to the audience about what they want to know more about on the topic.  This helps bring people out of their shell who otherwise wouldn’t be as engaged, and helps them get a question or two answered that they might have been too scared to ask.

As Matt explains, “This is definitely different than a traditional panel, as you cannot guarantee the people who think they are experts are actually experts, but it keeps people engaged by making them move around for the scale exercise and when the panel is made up of their peers they seem to be more likely to ask questions and encourage discussion.  I know that I don’t typically ask questions in a panel if the panelists are all CEOs because it intimidating, but this format eliminates that and encourages peers teaching peers.”

Thank Matt for sharing this innovative design for moderating a peer-based panel discussion!

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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.