The 5 Stages of a Great Panel Discussion

After I posted 15 Tips to Becoming A Rockstar Panel Moderator, a slew of emails came in with questions about the bigger picture on panel moderation. To help bring things into focus, Dr. Joanne Kamens wrote an article on LinkedIn a couple years ago that I think will be beneficial.

I saved this resource in my Evernote app for future reference and am now glad to share it with you here.

Dr. Kamens describes a good panel discussion as, “…a well choreographed performance with room for fortuitous improvisation”.

Breaking Down The 5 Stages

You can read the full LinkedIn article for details, but here are the 5 Stages as noted by Dr. Kamens.

Stage 1: Before the Event. Choose a panelist who can lead and develop interview questions for 4 handpicked subject matter expert panelists.

Stage 2: Room Set Logistics. Don’t use slides and don’t put panelists behind a table, but do use lapel microphones.

Stage 3: Moderator Takes Control. The moderator’s job to prevent panelists and audience members from derailing the discussion. They should introduce each panelist and only ask one question of two panelists—not all of them.

Stage 4: Audience Fun-Factor. Polling the audience with a couple questions at the beginning engages them and gives the moderator a sense of who’s in the audience. Also, use creative ways to keep the panelists around to meet and greet audience members—like desert or drinks after the panel.

Stage 5: Timing Is Everything. The moderator should keep things on time. Nobody likes a program that goes over and cuts into networking. Allot 40 minutes for the panel discussion leaving 20 minutes for audience questions. Nothing longer than an hour.


What has your experience been with panels—either as a moderator, panelist, or audience member? Share your answer on Twitter or Facebook.


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