10 Tips for Radical Panel Presentations



Not another boring panel!! If that thought goes through your mind at every meeting or conference it's time to get radical. As the moderator or meeting planner, you can dust off the cobwebs of complacency and create extreme meetings that will have everybody talking.

Brian Walter, President of the National Speakers Association and CEO of Extreme Meetings, spoke to the speakers at NSA NYC about how to moderate panel presentations that engage, excite, and energize the audience.

Mr. Walter, presenting much like a game show host, likened the moderator to a casting director. The first tip is to cast for contrast. On his panel were these four archetypes:

The Sage-an industry expert who uses tough love. (Think Dr Phil meets Yoda).

The Relator-someone like you but a little more successful.

The Exotic-a person from a different country or industry. Someone different from you.

The Wildcard- You look forward to their answers because you don't know what's going to happen. (Like Trump's tweets?)

Start Fast and Give Hope was Brian Walter's approach. Too many moderators self sabotage with their opening question because it takes 20 minutes to get through the first question.

Don't let panelists blather on. Instead, ask shorter, targeted questions and then a follow up. He demonstrated this technique and asked 8 questions in 1 minute and 45 seconds. "You want to leave them wanting more than wanting more to leave", Mr Walter explained.

Brian Walter gave his pet peeve about presenters on panels.  "The biggest mistake people make when on panels," he explained, "is saying I would like to echo or I concur or I agree with and then talking and not sharing anything else. Then why did you talk?"

He went on to list techniques to keep panel presentations moving and the audience engaged.

Here are his top 10:

1 Question cards. (can color code by topic)

2.Emailed question. (sent in ahead of time-different vibe)

3. Smartphone submitted questions.

4. Polling questions with remotes. The audience was given clickers to submit their answers. The challenge is clickers can be expensive and some audience members forget to return them. Another option is to download polling apps on your phone. The moderator can drill down by projecting 3 questions on the screen which are directed to a specific panelist. Then ask the audience which question they want answered. This is a good opportunity for humor.

5. Raise your hand LIVE questions. To make this more fun, Mr. Walter distributed 3 flags (red, blue, and yellow). Audience members matched the color-coded answers on the screen by waving a matching flag. Not as anonymous as a clicker but a lot more fun and energizing.

6. Panelist to Panelist questions. Here's where the moderator asks one of the panelists to ask a person on the panel a question. Instead of the rigid model of moderator- to -panelist, it's now panelist-to-panelist. Rather than the standard, expected Q&A, it's more like facilitation.

7. Panelist to audience questions. This is rarely done. Instead of being passive observers, the audience becomes part of the panel when a panelist asks a question of the audience. Talk about ENGAGEMENT!

8. Progressive Answers. A similar technique to the improv game of Four Pillars.

9.Random Questioners. (Volunteer Ball/Frisbee) Be careful with this one. Mr. Walter threw a rubber frisbee into the audience. Whoever caught it could ask a question. 

10. CATCHBOX questioners. A  Catchbox is a soft, rubber box that contains a microphone. Instead of a person running with a microphone, audience members catch the box, ask a question, and then throw it back.

My favorite tip was the One Breath Rule. A panelist can answer as long as they finish on one breath. What a great way to handle the windbags!

What a relief to know panels don't have to be boring. Now, would somebody tell the moderators?