Ever wondered how to pull off an engaging discussion panel event? Whether you're a pro or just starting out, we’re here to guide you about the key elements, benefits, and interactive strategies for successful discussion panel events in your business community or organisation.

The Expert Guide to Discussion Panels

What is a panel event?

A panel event is a format used in meetings, conferences, or conventions where expert speakers discuss a topic in front of an audience. This involves a live (or recorded) discussion among the panellists, often guided by a moderator or host. The primary purpose is to share insights and provide value to the audience, creating an intimate experience for both panellists and attendees.

Typically, a panel discussion features 4-5 industry experts renowned for their knowledge and insights on a specific topic, enriching the audience's understanding. A skilled moderator manages the flow of conversation, ensuring each panellist has the opportunity to speak, resulting in a dynamic and engaging experience. The theme or issue for discussion is carefully chosen, and the format can be structured as a roundtable, symposium, open forum, or seminar. The audience actively participates by asking questions and engaging with the panellists.

How to Plan and Host a Panel Event

  1. Define your goal and discussion topic. Determine the purpose of the event and the subject to be discussed.
  2. Choose your panellists. Select experts who can provide valuable insights and perspectives. The panel can include internal or external speakers.
  3. Prepare the moderator or host. Ensure the moderator is skilled in facilitating discussions and can manage the panel effectively. A cheat sheet of information on each of the speakers is essential!
  4. Plan the format and agenda. The panel discussion can be structured as a roundtable, symposium, open forum, or seminar. Outline each panellist's discussion topics, question formats, and time allocations.
  5. Audience. Who will this event benefit the most? How will you engage them? Utilise video conferencing platforms like Zoom or StreamYard to host virtual panel discussions and ensure seamless engagement.

Why are discussion panels so effective?

Panel events with speakers are helpful for business learning or accelerating knowledge, as they offer several benefits:

  • Diverse perspectives. One critical benefit of panel events is the opportunity to bring together experts from different backgrounds, experiences, and viewpoints. This diversity of perspectives can lead to a richer and more nuanced discussion, allowing for various insights and approaches to the topic. This is particularly valuable for complex or multifaceted subjects, where a single perspective may not provide a comprehensive understanding — or to accelerate learning from an outside source.
  • Interactive formats. Panels often involve a moderator and audience participation, allowing for a dynamic and engaging experience. This format encourages speakers to respond to questions and engage in discussions, which can lead to deeper insights and a more interactive learning environment.
  • Practical insights. Drawing from their rich experiences and lessons learned, Panellists will provide you with actionable advice and real-world examples, empowering you to apply new ideas or strategies in your work.
  • Networking opportunities. Discussion panels provide a platform for attendees to connect with other professionals and experts in the field. This can lead to valuable networking opportunities, collaborations, and future learning experiences.
  • In-depth analysis. Panels can delve deeper into specific topics, exploring the intricacies and nuances of a subject. This can be particularly useful for attendees seeking a detailed understanding of an area or issue and keep up to date with the trends.
Ensure you have dedicated Q&A time scheduled into the agenda

How can I make discussion panels more interactive?

Here are some ways to incorporate interactive elements into an event:

  1. Live polling. Integrate live polling throughout the panel discussion to get real-time feedback and input from the audience. This can help gauge audience sentiment, test ideas, or gather insights. Display the poll results on screen to encourage discussion. At PepTalk, we are big fans of Mentimeter.
  2. Q&A sessions. Build in time for a dedicated Q&A session where the audience can submit questions for the panellists. This allows attendees to engage directly with the experts and have their questions addressed. Ensure you have a couple of pre-prepared questions or plants in the audience!
  3. Audience participation. Consider incorporating opportunities for the audience to participate actively, such as inviting them to join the panel for a portion of the discussion or having them share their own experiences related to the topic.
  4. Interactive activities. Intersperse the panel with interactive activities, such as group discussions, brainstorming sessions, or hands-on exercises related to the panel's themes. These activities can help attendees apply the insights they're learning. Are you interested in going deeper? Check out PepTalk's workshops, where we do all the hard work for you.
  5. Audience feedback. Provide opportunities for the audience to provide real-time feedback, such as through digital comment boards or interactive surveys. This feedback can help the moderator steer the discussion and ensure it remains relevant.
  6. Networking sessions. Schedule networking opportunities before or after the panel event. This will allow your attendees to connect with each other and the panellists more informally, fostering deeper engagement and collaboration.
  7. Social media integration. Encourage attendees to share their thoughts and questions on social media using a dedicated event hashtag. Display a social media wall to showcase the real-time conversation.
  8. Gamification. Incorporating gamification elements is one way to make your panel event more interactive and engaging. This involves adding game-like features to the event, such as trivia, scavenger hunts, or leaderboards. These elements can make the event more fun and engaging for the audience, encouraging active participation and enhancing the overall experience.
  9. Augmented Reality. Another innovative way to enhance the panel experience is through augmented reality (AR). This technology is necessary for attendees to interact with visual aids or access additional content virtually. For instance, you could use AR to display 3D models or diagrams related to the panel's topic, providing a more immersive and interactive learning experience. 
  10. Breakout sessions. Organise smaller breakout sessions after the main panel discussion where attendees can explore specific topics more deeply and engage in more intimate discussions with the panellists.

By incorporating these interactive elements, you can create a more dynamic and engaging panel event that encourages active participation, fosters deeper learning, and enhances the overall experience for attendees.

Panel discussions offer an effective path for networking and reflection

Trending topics for discussion panels

From our deep experience helping companies discover and book top speakers for their panel events, these are the hottest topics resonating with businesses globally right now:

PepTalk’s expert speakers have a proven track record of participating in successful panel events. For instance, Wales Grand Slam Winner Gareth Thomas has shared his experiences and insights in numerous sports-related and Pride panel discussions. Similarly, Dr Samantha Hiew (neurodiversity and founder of ADHD Girls) and Jo Arscott (Diversity Advocate and Creative Director) have participated in panel events that have sparked meaningful conversations in their respective fields.

💡 Would you like to explore any of these topics or boost your discussion panel's credibility with an expert speaker? Let us know, and we’ll find the perfect PepTalk expert for your organisation. Email us at hello@getapeptalk.com or send us a message via the chat. You can also call us on +44 (0)2038352929. Remember, it’s never too early (or too late) to get a PepTalk!

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