There are many elements which combine to create an effective webinar. They need to be informative, educational, and engaging for the audience. In order to accomplish this, it’s important to use elements such as interesting slides, a Q&A session, live demonstrations, and videos.
However, many webinar hosts tend to shy away from hosting panel discussions as either part of their webinar, or for the whole webinar. Some fear that panel discussions are difficult to manage and plan and that there is more of a risk that something unexpected will happen. However, a webinar panel discussion can offer tremendous value for your audience and it can take your webinar to the next level.
If you want to plan for an effective webinar panel discussion, what are the key points that you need to take into consideration for it to be successful?
Here are the top key tips on managing an effective panel discussion in your webinar.
1. Audience Comes First
The first key tip to moderate an effective panel discussion is to remember that your audience has to come first. They are the ones who have taken time out of their busy schedules to receive something of value from you. Therefore, you need to make sure that the panel discussion and the panelists don’t draw attention away from the goal of your webinar. The panelists come second after the audience.
2. Get the Right Panelists
Usually, you have great freedom to pick your panel members. So, you should look for authority figures in your industry and then find ones with varying points of view. This can form the basis for a lively discussion. You have to make sure and choose just the right number. Usually about 3 or 4 panelists are enough.
The next key point in managing an effective panel discussion is to prepare well. This can help you make sure that the panel discussion is informative for your audience, without it getting out of hand and running over time.
So, you should prepare these important points:
- Research the topic well. Find different angles to cover the topic from and don’t be afraid to bring up controversial points in the discussion.
- Develop a bullet-point agenda. Choose between 3 and 5 main points that your panel discussion will cover. This should be sent to your panelists well in advance so that they can prepare. However, the discussion shouldn’t be overly-rehearsed beforehand.
- Don’t use slides. The whole purpose of the panel discussion is to gain insight from the panel discussion and slides will only draw attention away from that.
The next key points for managing an effective panel discussion deal with the actual presentation.
4. Moderate, don’t perform
If it is your job to moderate or manage the panel discussion, you need to take a backseat and let your panelists perform. Much like a conductor manages an orchestra, where it is his job to make sure that all the musicians work together in harmony; it is your job to manage the panel. Conductor would never start playing an instrument. He also makes sure that no one instrument dominates the music. Make sure and do the same in your panel discussion.
5. Get to the Point
The panel discussion should focus its attention on the main topic of the webinar. This means that you should only introduce the panel discussion with a couple of sentences and state the objective clearly from the outset. You are the one who should introduce each of the panelists and remember to only mention items about their experience that is relevant to the discussion.
6. Don’t Let the Panelists Pitch
The whole point of the panel discussion is to make a point in case about the main topic of the webinar. If a panelist starts pitching about his product, then this will just dilute the overall theme and it will frustrate your audience. So, beforehand inform your panel members what you expect and if the discussion starts becoming a pitch, try and steer the discussion back to the main point.
7. Vary the Discussion
Don’t have all your panelists answer the same one question. If you do this, you run the risk of the discussion becoming boring and rather than engage with your audience, you lose them. Usually, for one question it’s enough that just 2 panelists provide answers. Sometimes, you could have a third opinion, but try to keep the conversation flowing. Of course, you can design questions that one leads on to another one and this way you can engage all of your panel members on the one main point.
8. Get the Panelists Involved
In your preparation work, you can get them to think of one question to ask another member of the panel. This can make the discussion livelier and get everyone involved. Of course, it is good if you know beforehand what the questions are so that you can manage them properly.
9. Conclude Properly
Never finish your panel discussion with the phrase “one final thought.” Use the concluding comments to round up what everyone has learned or finish with a question that will be answered in the next webinar or panel discussion.