As a Nordstrom cardholder since 1982, I was delighted to receive an invitation to attend “The Virtual Anniversary: The Capsule Wardrobe.” Based on the title, I thought it was going to be a preview of their Annual Anniversary sale, complete with glossy photos, pictures, and runway glamour.
Imagine my surprise when I logged on and discovered…it was a panel discussion on the BlueJeans digital platform! Led by Nordstrom’s fashion editor, Kate, she was joined by Editorial Stylist Ebony, Market Stylist Brittany, and Personal Stylist Justin. Since my area of expertise is on panels, I always lean in to admire and learn from what goes on.
Yes, it was a preview of their Anniversary sale, but framed in a bit of education around the seven basics to your wardrobe.
Here’s what Nordstrom did well during their panel discussion:
- Cast of Characters. We had four panelists, each with a different area of expertise and perspective. They all had visual variety with different backgrounds.
- Plan. They carefully planned out the sequence of events and even scripted the first few minutes. As a viewer, I felt like I was in good hands and was willing to go on the journey with them.
- Audience Engagement. The moderator let us know how we were going to involved in the event: via the chat and to raise your hand to be recognized – along with the warning that you’ll have to turn on your camera and let us see you!
- Audience Q&A. Not only did they tell you they were going to take questions, they actually DID take questions! They also had a behind-the-scenes technologist who was identifying those who raised their hands and let them into the room. Made it a smooth transition.
- Split-screen. When Kate was sharing the different options to shop, the screen split to show Kate AND slides depicting each option. The view was a 50-50 screen split which means Kate had half of the screen and the slide had the other half. So many times, people default to the slide commanding 90% of the viewing space with the speaker in a little box in the upper right-hand side!
- Video. They used a pre-recorded video segment to quickly show the elements of the Capsule Wardrobe. Nicely done!
- Introductions. Rather than having all the panelists join the room at once, Kate introduced each panelist and asked them to “highlight their role” so we could understand their perspectives: Ebony is all about the style shoots for catalogs, social media; Brittany focuses on the online shopping and app experience, and Justin on the in-store personal shopper experience.
- Airtime. Kate did a great job managing the airtime, directing questions to each of the panelists as well as directing questions from the audience to be answered by a panelist.
Notice: ALL of the things that went well were based on intentional decisions made in the planning of the event! Great panel discussions don’t just “happen.” They are well-thought-out experiences for the audience.
What I would have liked to see done differently:
(BTW, it’s not like this is “bad” or “wrong,” just upgrades for the next time!)
- Practice. Kate was a little nervous and stiff at the start. Clearly, she was reading from a teleprompter. I’m not a big fan of teleprompters as you have to get the timing just right. My preference is to practice ALOT, have cue card(s) with the bullet points, and then talk it out. Seems more natural and relatable.
- Cameras. All the panelists appeared to have HD cameras, yet the moderator did not as the video quality was just a bit grainy. Not a big deal for Zoom happy hours, but I would think you’d want to have the best quality video – especially since fashion is so visual.
- Audio. Audio is just as important as video, and the same thing holds true. For informal chats, I have no problem using my laptop microphone. For more formal and important presentations, I use my Yeti Nano. The quality is much, much better, and will cancel out ambient noise.
- Pay Attention to the chatbox. There must have been five requests to know the link for the black, strappy top Ebony was wearing during the panel. Crickets. Even in the follow-up email, it wasn’t even mentioned. Maybe it wasn’t available during the Anniversary Sale? or at Nordstrom’s at all?
- Q&A. While Kate gave Q&A instructions, she definitely favored inviting those who raised their hands vs. looking at the chatbox. And when she did take a question from the chatbox, it was a question that had only four votes! Other questions had four times as many. Why bother adding a question to the chatbox and why bother “upvoting” questions you liked? A better process might have been to alternate between a raised hand question and one from the chatbox. (I don’t think they thought about this one….).
- Call to Action? I got a little confused as to the primary objective of this event. Was it to book an appointment with a fashion advisor or shop the Anniversary sale? I suppose it was both, but the messaging was focused more on booking an appointment whereas I wanted to know more about the Capsule Wardrobe (what is it? What different pieces are at the Anniversary Sale? Gosh, we only saw ONE advisor’s recommendation).
- Follow-through. Even though I felt like I was being pushed to book an appointment with a fashion advisor (I said “yes” to the online poll and in the post-panel survey), I still haven’t heard anything from Nordstrom! Especially in the virtual world, follow up is critical – although I did receive a generic follow up email.
- Brand Representation. I often talk about companies being “on brand” – where everything they do is consistent with the brand promise. To me, Nordstrom is about top-quality fashion delivered by exceptionally personalized customer service in an elegant, spacious environment (FYI – it took me a while to condense this in one sentence). In this case, there were a few things that were “off-brand” for me, which I won’t mention as it will sound too nitpicky. But I bring it up because the “brand on/brand off” lens is a good final reality check before you run your panel discussion.
All-in-all, the Nordstrom panel discussion was a great experience (is any other department store doing this? No!) and it prompted me to preview the Anniversary sale (Nordstrom: Goal Achieved!). I even put a few things on my wish list – which won’t be available to purchase until August 13th, but I’m ready!
For more resources on moderating panel discussions, visit the Knowledge Vault. To have Kristin moderate your next panel, visit the Powerful Panels official website.
How to Moderate a Virtual Panel Discussion
How to Create GREAT Questions for Your Panelists to Answer during Your Panel Discussion
Panel Discussion Tip #185 with Jeffrey Hayzlett: Finishing Panel Discussions
Photo by mauro arrue on Unsplash