Monday, 20 August 2007

How to run a successful panel session at a conference?

Well it's that time of year again where I need to prepare for the Australian Oracle User Group (AUSOUG) conference series. This year I've the opportunity to run a panel session at the conference in November along with another presentation.

Having never run such a panel session before, I was hoping readers who have participated or attended a panel session could give advice on the following please?:

1) What to prepare for?
2) How to run the actual panel session?
3) What makes for a successful panel session?
4) What makes for a panel session disaster?
5) Is there any equipment that is essential?

I guess there is the obvious stuff like organising your panel members, and making sure they turn up, but I'm sure there's more others could suggest beyond the basics.

Any help and advice appreciated. Please leave comments in the blogs comments section and I'll publish them.


Dan said...

I usually have each panelist submit 3-5 questions that they think may "seed" some discussions or trigger other audience members to ask questions. These are invaluable when you open the floor for questions and end up hearing crickets. As moderator, I also have a few questions in my back pocket to help spur some thought.

As for what you really do--well, that's up to you. I prefer to make myself the moderator. As moderator, I repeat questions from the audience so that 1) everyone hears that question and 2) to ensure that the question is clear (sometimes rewording the question to improve clarity).

Paul said...

Hi Chris,

A panel without opinions (strong, and on topic) is the kiss of death, but so is a panel that just wants to kill each other!

Also, I think it is a rare panel that can entertain and inform without audience participation.

Getting that interaction often seems to be the challenge, and one clearly for the moderator and organisers.

Even though Aussies are not know for being shy, I find "questions from the microphone" can interrupt the flow, especially if you are waiting for people to walk up to a mike stand or getting passed the mike.

The best panel discussion I have ever seen was in Singapore at ix2007 (I blogged about it here). We had wifi in the hall and a chatroom open and displayed on panels to the side of the room. A vigorous flow of comments and questions kept the chatroom busy throughout the panel discussion. But the critical ingredient was that the moderator did an excellent job of watching the chatroom with one eye, getting a sense of what was being said in the chatroom and then subtly feeding this into the panel discussion. End result was a very free flowing panel discussion that was highly tuned into the flow and agenda set in the chatroom. Not sure if your event has the scale or facilities to exploit this kind of approach, but if you do I'd seriously recommend you give it a thought!

Anonymous said...

The programmer/geek/anal guy in me wants to tell you that you might have got more responses if your blog post title was "How do I run a successful panel session at a conference?" or similar. The current title - with the easy to overlook question mark - looks like you are going to be telling use how to do something, not asking for help.

Chris Muir said...

Yep, I agree the geek in you is talking. You might be right about the title, but you'll appreciate it's not easy to write the "perfect" blog entry everytime, especially when there is no peer review or editor review.


Paul said...

Belated comment Chris, but I remembered your post when reading Jeremiah Owyang's How to Successfully Moderate a Conference Panel, A Comprehensive Guide.

It's good - worth checking out for next time;-)

Chris Muir said...

Thanks for remembering and posting the link Paul, much appreciated :)