Most people are immediately bored the minute they hear the word ‘conference’. What could be the cause of this? The same old 5-hour long PowerPoint presentation splattered with default fonts, and then there is the odd break for defrosted finger foods in a room full of bland furniture. It sounds like an underwhelming nightmare.
We compiled this brief guide on the do’s and don’ts of hosting a conference panel discussion successfully. Use it, don’t use it (no, really, use it!) – just don’t say we didn’t warn you.
What to Do:
Manage time well – people don’t want to feel like they’re trapped in an hours-long talk. The number of key speakers must be less than 5, with about 5 minutes to present each. This allows for enough Q&A time while the audience still has some concentration.
Ensure the moderator and panelists have prepared well in advance – Confirm that your key speakers are fully aware of your expectations. Do follow-ups least twice prior to the event.
Keep everyone on the same page – communicate all the necessary details. Host a conference call or lunch meeting to discuss progress and create familiarity.
Organise an out-of-the-box setup – be creative about how you prepare the room. Make it engaging and exciting for attendees and speakers.
Find a suitable moderator for the specific topic – this person must lead the conversation without taking over and engage the audience for Q&A purposes. They must be knowledgeable, current and lively.
What Not to Do
Don’t invite predictable speakers – be creative with your panelists. Consider journalists, academics and small business owners who’ve engaged the topic before.
Don’t over-prepare – this could dilute the authenticity of the conference panel discussion. Allow it to unfold organically.
Don’t use a single handheld mic – leave “passing the mic” to battling rappers. Rather use body mics to enable free movement and a seamless flow in the discussion.
Don’t pinch on question time – leave enough time for questions at the end. Therefore, preparation and time management are important.
Don’t do slideshows – they take away from the whole point of a discussion. You need the audience to engage what is said by the panelists and moderator.