Panels don’t have to suck

The participants like to hear themselves talk instead of giving the audience real value.  The moderator fails to prepare as much as he should. The audience gets more interesting content on their iPhones and the Twitter stream than they do from the panelists.  I don’t know about you, but that’s pretty often the case when I sit through panels.  Heck, sometimes it’s the case when I sit on the panel.

So it was a pleasant departure from the norm this week when Mike Troiano, hosting a FutureM panel on the (yes I’m afraid so)  “future of advertising,” had the foresight to realize the audience might want some arguing and disagreement.

Prior to the session he surveyed the participants, got us to respond to 10 statements (strongly agree to strongly disagree), then projected the answers one at a time on a large screen in front of the audience. Instantly the crowd could see where people stood on a topic and Mike could then engage primarily with those at opposite ends of the spectrum. As a member of the panel it was fun because you knew who to disagree with.  And the audience got an instant sense of where people stood. If we all agreed or clustered toward one end of the scale we simply skipped over the question entirely and avoided turning into an echo chamber.

A simple technique I would strongly recommend that any moderator consider to energize their next panel and keep the audience engaged.

I will note that in this case the questions were a bit too generic.  More challenging or provocative questions might have made for an even better conversation.  It may have been better still if Mike had crowdsourced the questions from those who planned to attend.

Where you there?  If so, what did you think?


Thanks, Edward. You guys were great, that's really what made this work.


The timing of this post could not have been better. I'm on a panel next week and have been asked for input. Will be sending the organiser a link to this. Simple idea and I can envisage the positive impact it would have had. Thank you.