In Search of the Perfect Chair for Panel Discussions

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I stumbled upon a picture of a panel recently and cringed.  The moderator and panelists are sitting on simple, four legged barstools with an itty bitty circular seat.  They look extremely uncomfortable…and I can’t imagine it made for stimulating conversation.

So what makes the perfect chair to incite an interesting and impact-full discussion of ideas?

It certainly isn’t the standard hotel chair behind a white (or other color) draped table….(I think you know my opinions about this!).

I am not a big fan of the big, high back stuffed chairs that are better suited to be showcased in the living room that no one uses.  While they may look nice, your panelists don’t know how to sit in them.  Should you sit back into the chair, then you look like a slouch.  If you sit forward (which I recommend), then you can’t use the back of the chair for comfort.  Because the seat is typically so big, do you sit on the right or the left side of the seat?  And, if you are short in stature, it just looks odd if your feet can’t touch the ground.

The second cousin to the high back dining room chairs are some typical dining room chairs which are much more comfortable – and you can space them closer to each other.  Although my issue with these chairs is that unless you have the crew up on a platform or riser, then the participants in the back won’t be able to see what’s going on.


So what’s my preference?  I like a tall, well-made, and sturdy director chair.  They add an element of informality and conversational tone to the room.  The shape of the chair almost forces the panelists to sit forward and be engaged. And, there is a place for your feet.

Mike Koenigs actually had these chairs made with his brand embroidered on the back.  He hosts several internet marketing conferences and actually ships them to his engagements because he ALWAYS has a robust panel discussion.

What do you think is the perfect chair – and why?


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.


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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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