This is a guest post by Juraj Holub, Content and Social Media Marketeer at Sli.do.
Panel discussions are an inseparable part of many events. By bringing together several speakers, event organisers are able to offer the audience a thought-provoking discussion that analyses a topic from different angles. But here comes the challenge.
The more parties involved, the more difficult it is to synchronise them all and keep the discussion on the track. And frequently, many panels turn into private conversations among the speakers therefor leaving the most important element, the audience, out of the debate.
So how do you pull all these parts together to run smoothly and ensure that everyone is happy?
The panel was composed of:
- Jon Ross (Director, Social Fuel)
- Wayne Morris (General Manager, EMEA, Guidebook)
- Juraj Holub (Content and Social Media Marketing Strategist, sli.do)
This panel was all moderated by the host Marino Fresch (Head of Marketing, Eventbrite UK).
Learning from Marino’s great organisation and execution, we’re more than glad to share the best practices and insights we took away from this.
Here are some tips on how you can organise a successful panel discussion:
Before the event
1. Synchronize before the event
As a host, it is absolutely crucial that you synchronize with your panelists before the event. Organise a conference call, during which you brief your guests about the topics ensuring that you are all on the same page. Present them the points that you plan to touch on so they can prepare their input. Ask them what they would like to bring to the debate and from which angle they will approach the topic.
2. Spread the word
To fill up the room, you should let people know that you’re hosing a panel discussion in the first place. A great thing about panels is that they’re ALWAYS composed of several panelists. The more people onboard, the wider the social media reach when they share the news. As a host, start tweeting well before the event to get the word out there. Make sure you tag panelists to encourage them to retweet your update or start tweeting on their own.
During the event
3. Introduce the panelists and break the ice
Make the introduction snappy and to-the point so the audience knows who will be talking with them. To make tweeting easier for your audience, you can display the panelists’ names with their Twitter handles during the intro time. The audience will appreciate it immensely.
Also try to break the ice at the start in order to create a bonding with your audience. Live polling is a great way how to do it. Live polls don’t only allow you to entertain people but also help you to understand who sits in the audience so you can adjust your lingo accordingly.
4. Set the ideal length
According to panel discussion pioneer, Scott Kirsner, the ideal length of the panel discussion is between 45-60 minutes. It’s important to have a certain structure of the discussion so you cover what you intend to within the dedicated time allotment. Check regularly how much time you have left to adjust the pace of the conversation.
5. Incorporate audience’s questions
Don’t wait until the end of the session to start addressing the questions from the audience. Once the discussion starts rolling, bring your audience into the discussion. Scott Kirsner advises to involve the participants within first 5 minutes! However with 74% of the audience fearing public speaking, it’s not the easiest task to accomplish. Use the audience engagement tool that allows everyone in the room to ask questions and upvote the ones that they find the most interesting.
6. Encourage tweeting
Live-tweeting is a super efficient way to get your message across to wide audiences. To boost tweeting during the panel, you can set up tweet walls to let your audience share the “stage glory”. Make no assumption that your audience knows the right hasthtag. Feel free to display it at the start along with the Twitter handles of your speakers.
After the event
7. Respond to the social media buzz
Tweets, reshares and mentions are all a form of gratitude after a well executed panel discussion. Don’t hesitate to response to the social buzz to reconnect with your audience after the panel discussion. Send thank you notes to the tweets with feedback, retweet the quotes and follow the most active members of your audience.
8. Keep the conversation going
In addition to responding to social media reactions, keep the conversation going by summarising the main points in the blog post. Share the snapshots, the videos or the infographic with live polls results to relive the panel discussion.
What are your tips for organising a successful panel discussion?