Three Exceptional Panels That Sparkled with Interaction

Juraj Holub

Pulling off an engaging panel discussion is not easy. As an event planner, you need to tick a number of boxes in order to achieve a great result.

It starts with a trending topic that will attract a critical mass of delegates.

Then, it continues with getting together a group of smart panelists, ideally with diverse opinions to create some tension.

And most importantly, you need to invite a great moderator who will be able to facilitate a discussion on behalf of the audience.

Below, you’ll find three exceptional panels equipped with Slido that aligned all the elements and achieved outstanding interaction.


Panel: Connected Selling in Your Modern Sales Ecosystem

About 15 minutes before the session opened, I saw Bubba Page, an Inc. magazine editor and the moderator of the upcoming panel doing a final sync with the panelists. I approached him to explain how Slido works and how to review incoming audience questions.

He asked me, “Is it possible to pre-load some questions so we can let the audience choose the ones they like?”

“Sure, we can do that,” I replied.

Before the session kicked off, we seeded 6 questions into Slido that he had prepared to open the dialogue with.

Five minutes into the panel. Introductions were done. Bubba turned to the participants and asked them all to go to the app, review the submitted questions and upvote the ones they would like the panel to cover first.

The votes started pouring in. But he didn’t leave it at that.

Bubba also encouraged people to submit any other topics that they thought were important. The audience didn’t need to hear more. Over 40 relevant questions got through, exceeding the time limits of the session by a huge margin.

The result?

The combination of masterful facilitation, expert panelists and to-the-point questions resulted in the most interactive session of the entire conference.

Inspiration for your next event:

  • Pre-seed some questions before the session starts.
  • At the start, tell people to review the questions and upvote the ones they want the panel to address.
  • Encourage people to ask their own questions and then incorporate them into the panel discussion.

2. SXSW Eco | Austin USA

Panel: Beyond VC: Finding the Right Funding Model

Imagine: You have a panel of angel investors and startup accelerators on one side. On the other, you have the audience composed of entrepreneurs.

To create a dialogue that’s meaningful for both parties, you need to find the middle ground.

That’s exactly what panel moderator Benjamin Gaddy achieved with a series of open-text polls. He created a backchannel with critical insights and needs floating from the audience to speakers.

The panel kicked off with one of the most burning questions that haunts most startups: What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced either raising money or investing? Ben gathered over 25 replies from around 70 people sitting in the audience.

Following the submissions on the screen, the panelists kicked off the discussion by addressing a good number of them. The list remained displayed for everyone to see. This way, the panel had the chance to repeatedly refer back to the obstacles ensuring that the conversation stayed on track.

Since funding and its accessibility were at the core of the panel, Ben activated another poll: What other funding options are you aware of? This allowed the presenters to outline the best strategies for securing the investment as well as to flag additional capital opportunities.

The panel was concluded by the final question: How can we help? It encouraged both parties to continue the conversations during the break.

Inspiration for your next event:

  • Crowdsource the challenges with open-text polls to help panelists provide relevant answers.
  • Space out polls throughout the panel to keep the audience energized.

3. Future Leaders Forum | IMEX America

Panel: Confidence = Impact

The Future Leaders Forum has been developed to help young event professionals kick off their careers. Part of the forum was also an inspirational panel discussion, Confidence = Impact, led by Lisa Paul.

But getting millennials in the audience involved can be a real challenge.

As Kaytie Zimmerman noted in the Forbes article, “Many millennials are quick to claim text and email as their preferred methods of communication.” That is in stark contrast with public speaking. Add a sensitive topic to the mix and the barrier might look impossible to overcome.

After a brief introduction, the panel discussion quickly began to revolve around the personal stories of the invitees. Having the ability to ask anonymously, the barrier seemed to crumble. The millennial audience started asking deep and meaningful questions without the fear of feeling ashamed.

Not surprisingly, 94 % of the questions were asked anonymously:

How do you choose to address sexism and micro-aggressions in the workplace?

In relation to authenticity, I have trouble being myself around those older than me for fear of them thinking of me as a “typical millennial.” Advice?

As males in the industry – in what way can we help to close the gap?

Panel moderator Lisa Paul was continuously monitoring questions and posing the most relevant ones to the panelists, who offered their advice to the audience.

This way, she was able to transform the traditional one-way information broadcast into a conversation around the personal topics that had a deep meaning for the audience.

Inspiration for your next event:

  • Create a safe environment by letting people know they can participate anonymously.
  • Don’t wait for the closing Q&A but pose the crowd-sourced questions throughout the panel.

For more case studies, read how to organize interactive panel discussions.

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