A panel discussion ain’t over until it’s over! Why not punctuate your panel with a group activity to discuss what just happened? Here are three ways you can involve the audience in the conversation:
1. Easiest: At the conclusion of the panelists’ discussion (or even in between speakers if you aren’t having a panel!), the moderator asks the participants to form a small group to discuss:
After the groups discuss it for a few minutes, ask for some findings/questions from each group (or from a few selected groups). If you can have the room set in round tables, that will make this much easier! Just say, “At your tables, discuss the key points that struck you as interesting or most applicable to your life.”
2. Harder: At the conclusion of the panelists’ discussion, designate a pre-determined discussion topic for each table (if set in table rounds) OR invite people get up and go to a table that has the pre-determined topic they are interested in OR invite people to get up and go to a designated corner/space in the room that has a pre-determined topic posted on a flipchart hanging on the wall. Panelists can be invited to join a table where a relevant topic is being discussed.
Again, brief reflections from the tables can be shared with the whole group at the end.
3. Hardest: Prior to the panelists’ discussion, facilitate an issues session. Ask each small group to brainstorm issues related to the panel topic. It’s handy, but not imperative to give each group a piece of paper to write down their brilliant ideas! Each group then identifies the top three issues, writes them on a 4×6″ index card, and hands the index card to the moderator.
The moderator collects all the cards and identifies the key issues/themes and uses that information to structure the panel discussion.
After asking the audience to identify the key issues, why not bookend the panel with a small group discussion on how to deal with those issues? At the conclusion of the panelists’ discussion, have the same small groups brainstorm suggestions on how to deal with the identified issue. Again, ask them to narrow their ideas down to the top three, write them down on an index card, and hand the card to the moderator. The results can then be fed back to the organization to consider/assign to a task force/take action!
“Conference participants are eternally grateful when they have a chance to participate beyond the ‘questions from the floor’ routine,” says Ann Epps, the inspiration for this post!
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.