With panel discussions, the whole is not always greater than the sum of the parts.
An amazing group of expert panelists needs an amazing communicator and analyst as the moderator and more time than the event is usually assigned. The most important ingredient for an amazing panel discussion is a clearly-stated topic which has the breadth to showcase panelist expertise and allow them to drill down into the subject for inspired insight. If the panel topic tries to cover “everything you every wanted to know about…” the discussion can be superficial or just ordinary.
My work and research make me a frequent and enthusiastic conference and meeting attendee. I admit that I am drawn to panel discussions because communication and the lack of it are what fascinates me. Panel-fan that I am, many panels leave me wondering more about what wasn’t said than what was.
The Best Advice for Panel Design
When you plan a panel discussion for your conference, client-appreciation event, or professional-development meeting, my advice as a panel-fan is to always apply the best advice for successful travel. Why “travel”? When panels catch fire and generate transporting edu-tainment (education combined with entertainment) for their specific audience, the experience is “mind travel” to a new exciting, even surprising place.
My advice for a transporting panel discussion is the same I give for travel: Take half as many clothes and twice as much money.
- For your panel discussion, the “half as many clothes” will be half as many topics, subjects, and perspectives. Just as novice travelers don’t travel light, panel planners can get carried away with the brain power at their disposal and pack in every subject possible. Ready for all occurrences, just in case, can mean missing the point of the panel discussion in the conference’s context.
- The panel discussion’s “twice as much money” does not refer to paying panelists more (usually there is little or no payment for these experts). Instead, the “money” refers to how the panel’s value—knowledge, experience, humor, and insight—materializes for the audience. When designing a panel discussion, ramp up the value to audiences. “Twice as much” is just the beginning. At business events, audiences expect to make money from what they learn and who they meet during the conference or meeting. Concentrate on how audience members can take their exposure to the panel discussion “to the bank.”
Example: Chronic Pain Forum
This Panel Discussion, presented by The Forum at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, jointly with The Huffington Post, is deliberately tackling a big subject head-on to ramp-up attention to The Chronic Pain Epidemic—attention that is long overdue.
The expertise of Forum meeting planners, panelists, and audiences will make this event matter. I’m suggesting you take a look at this event to see how subsequent panel discussions within this umbrella topic could “take half as many clothes and twice as much money” to further ramp-up attention to the issues here.
(The Epidemic’s impact on business is a topic for another post.)
Forum advance notices state:
Panelists are open to exploring relevant pain care policies, including prescription monitoring program regulations, drug development, funding for research, and a variety of pain management options, including marijuana and mindfulness meditation.
With only one hour for the panel and diverse audiences invited, how will this talented panel rise to create value for audiences?
The Dr. Lawrence H. and Roberta Cohn Forums
THE CHRONIC PAIN EPIDEMIC: What’s to Be Done?
Presented by The Forum at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health jointly with The Huffington Post
Thursday, November 10, 2016
11am ET — a brief pre-event Q&A with panelist Vaughan Rees and moderator David Freeman. Post your questions during the Q&A on Facebook.
12:30-1:30pm ET — During the one-hour panel discussion, panelists will examine how clinicians can best serve their patients, highlighting the recommendations of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ recent National Pain Strategy.
- Watch the webcast: ForumHSPH.org
You do not need to register to watch Forum webcasts online.
- In association with Harvard Health Publications
You can also watch the live stream on Facebook Live https://www.facebook.com/Forumhsph/
- The Forum video will be on demand after the event.
- Join the live chat on The Forum’s Chronic Pain Epidemic web page.
- Tweet @ForumHSPH #chronicpain
The Panel of Experts
Josephine Briggs, Director, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, NIH
Anne Louise Oaklander, Associate Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School, and an attending neurologist, Massachusetts General Hospital
Vaughan Rees, addiction specialist and Lecturer on Social and Behavioral Sciences, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Cindy Steinberg, National Director of Policy and Advocacy, U.S. Pain Foundation; Member, Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee, NIH; and Policy Council Chair, Massachusetts Pain Initiative
Moderator David Freeman is the managing editor of Impact & Innovation at The Huffington Post. He is also host of the weekly NPR radio program Science Insider.
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