The key to running and hosting a more successful panel is to ensure that you have done your planning well. It’s very easy to forget some of the core basics when you’re rushing around and booking guests, arranging travel, and ensuring that audience numbers are going to be high. A well-planned panel has much more chance of being positively received, and of conveying the discussions and the relevant points to their audience.
It’s well known that panels can be more difficult to run than simple presentations because there is always the potential for unexpected input. Without the stability of prepared statements, here are four things to remember as you plan your panel setup.
Consider your audience
Although you probably spend more time organizing guests, you also need to factor in the needs of your audience. If you want a successful panel, whether it’s an industry conference, a niche convention, or a trade event, you need to ensure that every member of the audience can see and hear everything. That means ensuring that both sound and view are clear.
Take the time to sit in random seats for sightlines and soundchecks, and don’t simply check the most central seating position. You can plan the best panel in the world but if only half the audience can hear what’s happening, then mistakes have been made.
Be ready for emergencies
Panels can often feel like preparing for a play, and there are more than a few similarities. One of the most common similarities is things going wrong. Few panel organizers have a seamless, incident-free event, and that means having the ability and the foresight to tackle whatever mishaps occur. From tech issues to practical accidents like your banners falling down five minutes before the panels starts, make sure you have creative options available. For those practical issues, you’d be amazed at how useful baling wire can be. This is what factories and farmers use to wrap their harvests and their waste, but you don’t need to buy a wire baler. Just make sure that you have some baling wire close to hand, and you might be surprised by how much it comes in handy.
It can be hard to sit at a panel and talk if you’re nervous about speaking. Dry mouth will affect both confidence and ability to project your voice, which is going to be vital no matter how high-quality your sound system is. It might seem like common sense to have water available for speakers, but it’s surprisingly common to attend panels and see the speakers struggling to get their words out due to a lack of refreshment. Make sure that water is available at the start of every panel and that it is refilled when the panel is over and the next speakers are arriving.
A successful panel is one that will convey information while initiating conversations and ideas. When you have booked your speakers, take the time to do some research. Even if you have a solid understanding of the subject matter being discussed, it always pays to research the speakers themselves. Often, you can find discussion points and facts that will lead those speakers into whole new directions and that can only be good news for the energy of your panel.
Running a panel isn’t easy, but it can be made far less stressful by getting your prep right. Take the time to create the right environment and both your panelists and your audience will have a more valuable experience.