How to Ruin a Panel Presentation in Six Easy Steps

May 21, 2016

Chances are you’ve attended an event with a panel of experts discussing an issue you care about. And chances are some of these presentations were deadly boring or failed to live up to expectations. Either way, 45 minutes felt like an eternity.

Over 18 years, we’ve helped our clients plan hundreds of successful, lively presentations and panels, and here’s our best advice about what NOT to do:

  1. Set no goals: If you really want to bomb, this is a great place to start! Too often, the first instinct is to suggest panelists and moderators instead of asking how the speakers connect to the event’s theme. Have a clear idea about what you want your audience to gain in exchange for giving you 45 minutes of their precious time.
  2. Pick the wrong moderator: You know who makes the best moderator? Someone who is comfortable in her own skin, curious, can guide a conversation, keep people on topic and on time. Want to put your audience to sleep? Have your moderator read her questions.
  3. Pile on the panelists: How many panelists does it take to snooze a room? We don’t want to find out. Keep it manageable with no more than four.
  4. Ignore the audience’s interests: Panel presentations are a two-way interaction. You want to share information. The audience needs to take in that information in ways that are meaningful and can be acted upon. Think about what your audience needs before you design the conversation.
  5. Double down on the PowerPoints: Who likes a dense PowerPoint? No one, that’s who! Avoid PowerPoints. Prep your moderator to ask meaningful questions, giving panelists an opening to share the information that you want your audience to receive.
  6. Just wing it: You can get away with winging many things in life, but a panel presentation is not one of them. Break out those spreadsheets and start planning early what you need: a solid goal, visuals, panelist prep, audio-visual run-through and supporting materials.

Take it from us. You can’t control everything in life but this is one time you want to give your inner control freak free rein.