How to Run a Great Panel Session
As community managers at BrightTALK, we have learned what works and what doesn’t for a successful webinar. Month by month, we have found that the most well attended webinars have been the panel sessions. Speaking from experience, putting together a roundtable where no one knows each other and expecting them to work together is no easy task. That’s why we’ve decided to share a list of our little secrets so you can run a successful panel session for your audience.
- Pick a strong moderator. The moderator is the orchestrator of the whole show. You want someone who will be able to guide the panelists to express their viewpoints but, at the same time, also know when to redirect the discussion when a panelist tries to dominate the conversation. A great moderator will know when to smoothly incorporate audience questions into the conversation to keep the discussion engaging. Lastly, he/she will ensure the webinar runs to time, allowing for expert discussion, audience questions and a proper ending with no rush.
- Pick panelists with different viewpoints and backgrounds. For a panel size of 4-5 participants, you want to make the session interesting by including experts in the industry with diverse perspectives. This offers a 360-degree approach to the topic.
- Deliver relevant content. Choose a topic of interest or a timely matter that grabs your audience’s attention. This will increase registration rates and is more likely to be shared via social networks.
- Preparation and briefing. Organize a conference call a few weeks before the live event to go over the format of the discussion, content, and deliverables. If time allows, it is best practice to schedule another call closer to the live date to have a final run through of the completed presentation and to ensure everyone is comfortable before the live event.
- Establish the format of the session and limit position statements. Create a clear structure that is dynamic and attractive to attendees. Limit the time for each speaker – 5 minutes is more than enough for a speaker to introduce their viewpoints. You should not use more than 1/3rd of the allotted time for prepared speech, as you want to be sure to use the rest of the time for Q&A and open discussion.
- Use the votes and prompt the audience to send questions. Use votes to gain insight into your live audience so you can adapt the content according to their level of knowledge. Be sure to continually prompt them to ask questions to keep them engaged.
- Enjoy. Above all, have fun! The purpose of the panel session is to bring together top experts who share the same passion for the subject matter and want to share their personal experiences with each other and the audience. Enjoy the discussion and contribute whether you agree or disagree with the opinion of your peers.
Check out some examples of panel sessions that have been a success on BrightTALK:
What are your experiences with panel sessions? Do you have any favorites?