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The typical panel consists of seven elements:

    1. Welcome
    2. Panelist introductions
    3. Panelist presentations/initial comments
    4. Moderator-curated questions directed to the panelists
    5. Questions from the audience directed to a panelist(s)
    6. Summary
    7. Thank you/administrative remarks

You may opt to do all seven, omit some or even create your own unique format. No format is perfect, so adjust the format to meet your objectives.

For a one hour panel, there are four popular formats to consider:

  • Mainstage Style
  • Q&A Style
  • Initial Remarks Style
  • Presentation Style

Mainstage Style.  Hard-hitting, short panel discussion with the keynote/main stage presenters with no audience Q&A.

Q&A Style. A two to five minute introduction of the topic and panelists, 25 minutes of curated questions from the moderator, 25 minutes of audience questions ending with a summary and thanks.

Initial Remarks Style. A two to five minute introduction of the topic with each panelist taking five minutes to introduce themselves and their perspectives on the topic. Then 20 minutes of curated questions from the moderator, 10-15 minutes of Q&A with the audience ending with a summary and thanks.

Presentation Style. A 2-5 minute introduction of the topic and panelists. Each panelist has 10-15 minutes of uninterrupted sharing of his or her perspective, 5-10 minutes of Q&A ending with a summary and thanks.
Add a little pizzazz using a specialty format (largely derived from television shows) as well:

  • Debate (political or otherwise)
  • Point/Counterpoint (60 Minutes)
  • McLaughlin Group
  • Real Time with Bill Maher
  • Hot Seats (American Idol, X Factor and The Voice are examples)
  • Café Style (Friends)
  • The Newlywed Game

The key is to select or create a panel format that will resonate with your audience and be congruent with the topic.  (You don’t want to do a fun Newlywed Game if you’re talking about how to ban bullying from schools.  That’s just a rude mismatch.)

What other panel discussion formats do you use?



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.

Kristin ArnoldKristin Arnold
Award-winning author Kristin Arnold is an expert panel moderator and professional meeting facilitator.
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