The ‘panel’ is often a preferred presentation format for big conferences. It seems like a win-win for everyone. The conference can advertise a handful of high-profile speakers that are all together on the stage sharing their wisdom. The panel members can just show up without preparing any slides, presentation, just winging it.

Unfortunately, the audience can tell. Panelist that get caught off-guard by a question and making up an answer like a politician, throwing in a few buzzwords along the way. Moderators that try to sow their own smarts by answering the questions themselves.

A good panel requires preparation. Moderators need to think what questions to ask to whom. And panel members should be asked to share what interesting stories they can share that then can be weaved into a question.

From my own experience, the panels that share ‘raw’ stories are the most interesting. How a company grew, what decisions they took, stats on where they are now. Everything first hand and directly related to the panel member. Very specific, actual experiences. As soon as people try to generalise and abstract away from the direct experience, things become boring very quickly.

A good panel discussion is well-prepared

Photo by Alex Read on Unsplash

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