Powerful Panel Discussion Tip #275 – Becky Pluth: Getting Panelists Comfortable Sharing

Professional panel moderator Kristin Arnold asks Becky Pike Pluth, Train-the-Trainer expert and President/CEO of the Bob Pike Group to share how to get panelists to feel comfortable voicing their opinions in the presence of their peers during a panel discussion at meetings, conferences, and conventions.

Video Transcript

Kristin: How do you get leaders to feel comfortable voicing their opinions?

Becky: So, we use what we call level setting exercises so that everybody is on the same playing field. For example, from the very beginning of a panel saying, “Share with one another your favorite session so far at the conference.” That’s level setting. It doesn’t matter if you’re a new hire or an executive, everybody’s on the same plane. Within your small groups, because I always form small groups, even if you’re in rows, I get four people in pods, and/or if you have tables that’s even better. 

At your tables, your team leader is going to be the person who woke up earliest this morning or arrived first in this session, those kinds of things. The newest to the industry, those types of things are level setting. Because newest to the industry is not likely to be senior leadership. And then, shortest hair, it’s random. So, I’m level setting. It doesn’t matter who you are in this room, you all will have an opportunity to share back ideas. So, at the very beginning, I’m setting the level by saying, “Shortest hair at your table is going to be your team leader. Here’s the question. The question is da-da-da-da-da. We want to get answers from you, the panel is going to discuss their answer. On your marks, get, set, go. Great, table leaders, that shortest hair person. Go ahead and raise your hand, share one thing that came up at your table or in your group.” 

They then do that. What happens is, everyone now ends up having a voice, because the shortest hair person, it could be anyone. It doesn’t really apply to leadership or not, and you start to get all these other people sharing within the small group. That’s safer than all of a sudden putting a question out to the entire audience and saying, “What’s your best idea?” You’re gonna get crickets. 

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Kristin Arnold, professional panel moderator, and high stakes meeting facilitator is on a crusade to make all panel discussions informative, interactive, and interesting.   Specifically, she wants to help YOU become a better panel moderator.  Why?  Because 95% of annual meetings have panel discussions – and according to the 2014 Panel Report, it’s a fifty-fifty proposition they are any good at all!  Expectations decrease dramatically when your attendees walk in and see the traditional draped head-table with microphones on short stands.  There are sooooo many other ways to have a stimulating conversation!  So let’s increase the probability of success for your next panel discussion with these resources.

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