So you’re talking to your panelists in preparation for an amazing panel discussion, and one of your panelists asks, “What can I do to make an impact? To be memorable so that people DO something with the information?”
Ah…and that’s the challenge, isn’t it? We can have lovely conversation, but at the end of the day, what’s the point?
Here’s the deal: We all want to witness a unique conversation you can’t get anywhere else, so it’s important to continuously reinforce a conversational tone to the panel so it doesn’t sound so stilted.
To do that, the panelists need to come prepared:
Now here comes the zinger: Along with doing the prep work, what really makes a panelist or the panel discussion memorable is to do something unexpected and/or something spontaneous. Something you wouldn’t normally witness in one of your organization’s typical panel discussions.
When I mention this to my clients, I usually hear silence. A cough. Then a hesitant question, “Ummm…how do I do that?”
That’s an amazingly great question and requires a bit of brainstorming:
Encourage your panelist(s) to brainstorm ideas on their own, or join in a brainstorming session with just one panelist, or hold a brainstorming session with all the panelists! The point is, you have to put the seed of inspiration in their heads. It just ain’t going to happen on it’s own (unless you are the utterly fascinating Sally Hogshead!).
Now let’s talk about the word “spontaneous.” There is such a thing as “planned spontaneity” where the panelist plans to do something that actually appears to be spontaneous in the eyes of the audience. But it’s really not. The panelist has actually prepared for the “spontaneous” moment (see above).
BTW panelists: It is helpful to give the meeting organizer and panel moderator a heads up on your intentions. Just sayin’.
But then again, a panelist can truly act in a spontaneous manner during a panel discussion. And that, my friends, is always a surprise: for the moderator, the fellow panelists, and the audience! The ability to pull this off is largely dependent on the panelists’ personal style and confidence that it will be interesting and benefit the audience. If it works, run with it! And if it bombs (which it might), simply move on. No harm, no foul.
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.