How to set it up for success
People want to learn from people who know. People who’ve experienced what they have, achieved what they haven’t and can fuel their aspiration! Panels are the perfect way to do this. But you can’t just pop people up on stage. Prepare your panel for success with the following key elements:
1) Numbers – The perfect panel number is between 3 and 5. Any more than 5 will have difficulty making a decent contribution. But in the world of people cancelling, pre-event communications with your panel members is key. Ensure they are prepared with information about the panel, what you’re wanting to achieve and why they’ve been selected. Confirm with them one week prior and one day prior. A panel no show is a no go! Start the panel by saying ‘we want to hear from all of you’ so that they know they will have equal time and be respectful of that.
2) Questions – Juicy questions are the key!!!! How do you get those? For starters –research topical questions and reach out to your delegates for questions prior to the event; consider using a tool like Klaxoon or poll anywhere at the event (live questions, word clouds and games through your phone); encourage tough questions at the start of the panel. Your panel members might like to suggest questions too!
3) Facilitator / MC – We attended an HR conference recently and the panel MC opened the diversity and inclusion session by making a joke about women. Wow. The person you select for the panel can make or break the tone of it. Take the time to research your MC, then take the time to comprehensively brief your MC.
4) Equipment – Have microphones!!!!! Headset or handheld mics for every person on the panel – there’s nothing worse than passing a handheld around. And for the audience – handhelds with runners, or microphones on stands stationed throughout the room.
5) Troubleshooting – One panel member taking over the show? Ensure your facilitator is prepared for this by being confident in politely interrupting and passing the question to another person on the panel. Not many questions coming through? Make sure you have some questions up your sleeve. It’s only a little white lie to say ‘we’ve had this question come in’, but make sure you don’t ask your staged questions unless you need to or you risk impacting the credibility of the panel. Panel going overtime? We at Corporate Theatre love our countdown clocks, we believe it’s important for the flow of an event and to ensure everyone gets the time they deserve. It’s just a matter of respect. A clock counting down for the panel to see is key. And if you’re out of time, the MC can interrupt politely and say ‘we’ve got some great conversations starting here that we don’t want to end – so let’s continue these conversations with the panel during the break’.