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When putting together a powerful panel, round up a handful of interesting people with different experiences and perspectives.  In other words, look for DEEP panelists:

Diverse.  Beware of lining up a panel that is too similar and/or comfortable with each other.  A group who is in complete agreement makes for a boring panel.  A panel who knows each other well may lack a fresh perspective.  And don’t forget about visual diversity.  A panel who looks too homogenous may not reflect the diversity from within the audience.

Expertise.  Ask a recognized authority, news-maker or thought leader within the industry who possesses strong enough credentials that generate credibility quickly through a bio or 30 second introduction.  Or find a practitioner who has firsthand knowledge about the topic and has applied it successfully (or not) in the real world.  You can also consider stakeholders – those representatives along the value chain.  Invite a high-profile end-user customer, an employee or a vendor-partner who has expertise on the topic.

Eloquent.  Panelists should be good conversationalists.  How good are they on the phone?  Was it a monologue or a discussion?  Can they express their opinion, take a controversial position on a topic – without being a jerk?  Review video footage to make sure the potential panelist has the ability to keep the audience engaged and interested.

Prepared.  Some high profile personalities have one speech and won’t (or cannot) tailor their presentation and/or comments for your specific audience or topic.   Find someone who will do the work – who will have three key messages the audience needs to hear complemented with an anecdote, metaphor, analogy, example, or illustration.

The ideal panelist should have these four traits to increase the likelihood of a lively and informative panel discussion.


To learn the steps to successfully moderate a panel discussion like a pro, try this user-friendly guide.


Kristin Arnold MBA, CMC, CPF, CSP, is a professional meeting facilitator and panel moderator.  She is passionate about making meetings and panel discussions more engaging, interactive and collaborative. You can read more of her work in one of her books Team Basics, Email Basics, Team Energizers, or Boring to Bravo.

Related Articles:

Asking Your Panelists the Tough Questions: What Makes a Question Powerful?

What Makes Your Panel Fascinating?

The Moderator’s Role in Panel Discussions


Kristin Arnold
Kristin Arnold
Kristin Arnold is on a crusade to make all panels lively & informative (F2F, virtual & hybrid). She is the author of the primer for all panel moderators: Powerful Panels: A Step-by-Step Guide to Moderating a Lively & Informative Panel Discussion. Contact her at 800.589.4733
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