7 Tips For Your Next Panel Discussion

It seems there isn’t a conference that goes by without at least one session being a panel discussion. Panel discussions are a great way to change the delivery of a message and get some audience/attendee interaction.

It is key to have a good plan together when planning a panel session for a meeting or conference. Deciding the stage set up of the panel is an important aspect. You want panelists and moderator to be able to enter the stage without obstacles and sit comfortably so they are focused on the topics being discussed. Here are seven things you want to consider when you begin to plan your next panel discussion.

  • Think through the set up that will work for your topics and audience. Should your panelists sit at a table for a more formal feeling or would lounge chairs or bar stools be more appropriate to create a sense of a more open discussion
  • Microphones: You have options–tabletop, wireless lavalier (lav), passing a wireless handheld. Depending on your setup, your panelists, and your topics, the microphone choice could vary. This would be a good time to engage your technology partner and ask for their recommendations.
  • Audio becomes a little more complex when switching between microphones on stage and when switching from one person on stage to having anywhere from 3 to 8 live mics in one room. Frequencies and feedback can becomes something you have to be conscious of. Have an audio technician present during your session so they can make adjustments as needed throughout the session.
  • Choose a strong and credible moderator. It is a good idea to talk through the agenda, format, questions and any guidelines you may have for the moderator a couple weeks in advance. This will give them a chance to prepare and ask you questions. The more confident your moderator, the more comfortable your panelists will be, which will lead to a successful discussion.
  • Schedule a rehearsal and walk through for your moderator and panelists with your audio technician present. This will allow microphone levels to be adjusted to different voice levels and, if you’re using wireless lavs, will give the audio tech an ability to properly place mics on clothing.
  • Share details with your moderator and panelists for them to be prepared and comfortable. These details should cover everything from what to wear, how to keep the discussion on time, and where the water will be. If the panelists will be sitting on bar stools, it’s a good idea to tell female panelists to avoid wearing a skirt. If you’re using lav mics, avoid wearing scarves or V-neck tops. Avoid potentially awkward water situations by pointing out where each panelist’s water glass is prior to the session starting.
  • Will your panel discussion have audience interaction? If so, make a plan for getting those questions to your moderator and panelists. You could use wireless mics on stands, a mic runner or two or depending on the audience a throwable Catchbox microphone, or even a phone app that allows audience to submit questions. This is another great area to consult with your technology partner.