I have attended and organized professional events where the content is mainly delivered through panels. When done well panels can be engaging, insightful, and entertaining but unfortunately not all panels are created equal. If you’re on a panel, or organizing an event that features panels here are ways to ensure it’s the best possible experience for everyone.
If you’re on a panel:
- Have to have something to say. Have an opinion, an idea, or an axe to grind. The more pointed your opinion the better it is.
- Engage the other panelists. The most engaging part of a panel is when the speakers talk with each other in a conversation rather than in a series of one-to-many speeches to the audience.
- Tell (short) stories. Short concise stories are an effective way to communicate a point or idea and to connect with your audience. Just be sure that you don’t drone on and on.
- Modulate your tone of voice. Let your passion, anger, or excitement show through your tone of voice. Nothing is worse than listening to a monotone speaker.
If you’re organizing or moderating a panel:
- Have a clear question or point that you want to explore. The tighter the scope of the panel the more engaging it will be.
- Invite a diverse range of speakers. Tech conferences in particular have a bad habit of hosting manels and it doesn’t represent the full viewpoint of attendees
- Invite panelists with differing opinions on the topic, this leads to deep and interesting conversation as they explore the differences in their opinion
- Prepare the panelists with the topic and general scope of what you want to cover, but don’t over prepare them. Save the best part of the conversation for the event itself.