Panel discussions are excellent for addressing topic areas that are too complex for one individual to cover, and they can provide a rich experience for the audience because each panelist brings their own perspective to the topic at hand. Ideally, the moderator can highlight those perspectives and stay focused on the agenda, enable each panelist to shine and keep it all compelling for the audience.
Like most things, the ability to be compelling is dependent on good planning and on knowing the audience, so be sure to think through the objective in advance and plan accordingly. Key questions to keep in mind include:
- Does your abstract give the audience enough to say 'Tell me more?'
- Will the information you share stay with the audience?
- Then, how do you get the audience to act on it?
- Build trust
People buy trust first. If you gain someone’s trust, they listen to you. It’s that simple. But it’s easier said than done, of course. So figure out how the moderator and the panel will earn the audience’s trust, and once gained, safeguard it because that’s the first and most important goal.
- Build relationship
Also, people buy from people they like. The key here is to establish a relationship between the panel and the audience. A great way is to get the panel to share stories and personal experiences that enable the audience to start thinking “me too,” so they can relate to the panel and to the topic at hand.
- Build engagement
Once there’s a relationship and there’s trust, you’ve created an environment where the audience can start getting the feeling "I need you." Aim for that feeling, and be mindful to keep the content accessible to enable the engagement. Do that by keeping it organized in 5-minute segments - that duration correlates to typical adult attention spans. (Who knew??)My thought here as a marketer is that if getting to "I need you" is too tall an order for one panel discussion, then I need to think about how I prompt them for the next action so the engagement endures and the trust and relationship become "I need you" when it's right for the customer. It's all about the follow up.
- Educate / Entertain
The ideal panel strikes a balance between educating and entertaining because a purely educational session with no entertainment (in most business situations) will inhibit the relationship and engagement that creates the memorable experience you’re after.