Panel Sessions: 3 Ways To Keep Them On Track

by drjim on September 9, 2014

Setting up a successful panel session requires planning on your part

Setting up a successful panel session requires planning on your part
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Public speaking takes on many different forms. One of the most challenging types of public speaking that we may be called on is to manage a panel session. Panel sessions are a great way to get experts on some topic together in a single place so that they can share their different views on a given topic. However, because of the dynamic nature of this type of public speaking, things can get out of hand very quickly during the actual panel session if you aren’t careful…

3 Ways To Keep A Panel Session From Going Off Track

As with all such things in life, a successful panel session is something that happens in the moment: it can go well or it can go badly. As the person who has been tasked with running the panel session, in order for your audience to experience the benefits of public speaking, you need to make sure that you are prepared to do all of the things that you are going to be required to do on the day that the panel happens. This means that there are three things that must be done while the panel is happening:

  1. Create An Agenda: An agenda is going to be the map that everyone on your panel uses to reach the end. You need to create your agenda by taking into account each of your speaker’s knowledge and talents. Make sure that everyone gets a copy of the agenda before the day of the panel. Bring copies for everyone just in case they forget their copy. Finally, things happen and you may not have as much time as you were promised. Always make a backup agenda that assumes that you have 15 to 30 minutes less time than you were promised.
  2. Plan What You Are Going To Say: As the moderator of the panel, you will have four different opportunities to talk. The first will be the opening. You’ll want to introduce the topic that the panel will be discussing and you’ll want to be very clear about when and if the audience will be allowed to ask questions. You will be responsible for introducing your panel members and this means that you will have to decide if you want to introduce them all at once or each individually before they start to speak. Next, you’ll be responsible to kicking off any Q&A session and it can be helpful to have some questions prepared in order to get things started. Finally, you’ll be the one who concludes the panel session by thanking everyone for participating
  3. Facilitate: In order to do a good job of facilitating a panel session, you are going to have to use a number of your public speaking skills. You’ll need to carefully listen to what your panelist say as well as members of your audience. It’s going to be your job to bridge the gap between different ideas. You are going to be responsible for repeating what your panelists have said and perhaps even reframing their ideas so that your audience can understand their points. Finally, it’s your panel session and so you’ll need to be able to interrupt your panelists and your audience members who are going on too long or going off in the wrong direction. Speak up and keep things on track!.

What All Of This Means For You

Sometimes the toughest speaking jobs are the ones where you are not the star. Panel sessions are a great way to get experts on a given topic to come together in order to share their thoughts on a given topic. When you are in charge of keeping a panel session on track, you are going to have your hands full trying to make sure that it will be a success.

What you do to prepare to keep the panel on track can be the key to how successful the panel turns out to be in the end. In order to capture the importance of public speaking you are going to have to start by creating an agenda that everyone can follow. Make sure that everyone gets a copy and knows what the plan is. You’ll have to create speaking material for you to use at certain points in the discussions. Including introductions, questions, and conclusions. Facilitating a panel discussion is not easy. Make sure that you take the time to listen to what is being said, reframe what has already been said, and know how to interrupt if needed.

A great speaker can connect with an audience and change the way that they see their world. A well done panel session has the ability to do the very same thing: by presenting all sides of a particular topic, you have a real possibility that you will end up changing your audience’s lives in some way.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™

Question For You: How much time should you give to each of your panel members to present their views?

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Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site www.Toastmasters.org. Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

I don’t know about you, but my life is ruled by checklists. What this means is that once I’ve done something once and figured out the steps that are involved in doing it, I’ll make a checklist so that the next time that I do it I won’t forget anything. As speakers there are times that we are asked to use our speaking skills host a panel session. Panels have a lot of moving parts associated with them and clearly this calls for a checklist…

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