How To Run A Great Expert Panel In 13 Steps

Panels: In-Person Events To Extend Content Marketing

Content Marketing Panel NYC - joe Pulizzi-Ann HandleyB2B marketers use panels as a form of in-person events to meet potential clients, interact with existing clients face-to-face, and establish thought leadership. But they overlook the larger potential of the panel to extend their content marketing beyond the live presentation.

Having organized moderated and participated in numerous panels on a variety of topics, I have identified 13 steps to run a great expert panel while reaping maximum content marketing effectiveness.

  1. Determine how the panel fits into your overall marketing plans. Think beyond lead generation and customer support. The panel shouldn’t be a standalone event. Integrate it into your promotional and editorial calendar along with related content.
  2. Know your audience. Who will attend the panel live and what do they seek from the event? Realize their motivations may differ from yours. They may look to gather information on a hot new topic, network or just get out of the office. Also, take into account your secondary audience who’ll get the information online via social media or other content outlet.
  3. Choose a relevant topic. Put yourself in your audience’s shoes. What information do they consider worth their time to attend your event? This step is crucial to your event’s success. If your main focus is a snooze of a topic, then brainstorm a related or ancillary topic that demands attention.
  4. Craft a sexy title. Bear in mind David Ogilvy’s rule that only 20% of viewers ever read the body of your content. (Copyblogger’s Brian Clark echoes this sentiment.) The same holds true for panels. You can have rock star participants but if invitees don’t read past your email headline, they’ll never know or attend.
  5. Select a moderator and panelists based on their fit. At a minimum, you want experts who your audience respects and who’ll add life to your event. Of course, availability and cost can be an important factor. Among the attributes to consider are personality, depth of knowledge, and ability to think on their feet. Not everyone is a great panelist.
  6. Determine panel format. Will there be a short piece (aka promotion) for your organization? Will participants give short presentations or will everyone answer every question? Will participants just ad lib? Develop an organized set of questions to discuss so panelists can prepare. Remember, after the presentation is over,  you will want ancillary content for your editorial calendar.
  7. Develop a list of questions. While it’s critical to keep the discussion going, give each panelist a softball question. Also, have a list of 7 or so core questions because you may need to keep panelists talking. Many panelists don’t prepare. Draft and share a panel summary with related bulleted take-aways.
  8. Talk to each panelist before the event. If you’re the moderator, don’t rely on email. Pick up the phone and talk to each panelist in real time. While you may feel confident winging it, your panelists may not. Use this opportunity to give them an overview of your vision for the talk and to engage them to gather their input about the discussion. These conversations can yield ideas for other related content.
  9. Do your homework. Ensure that you’re providing real value for attendees. Spend an hour answering the questions in long form so you know the points you want to make.
  10. Promote the panel on your owned and social media venues. Show your support by letting others know that you’re part of this event. It’s a great way to get extra visibility by association.
  11. Participate and have fun. Engage with the moderator and other panelists in real time. Dive in and provide valuable examples. With a bit more extra preparation, you can line up your answers to these questions and post them to Twitter.
  12. Engage with the audience post-panel. Be available to chat with attendees who have questions. Respond to people who give you their business card within 48 hours if possible. Also, if your firm is the sponsor use this opportunity to thank attendees. This is a prime time to engage with prospects so have content ready to go so you can email attendees.
  13. Create additional content. Based on the in-person input and social media feedback, develop additional information to distribute using social media. At a minimum, get some photographs of the panel. Use this information to re-imagine your content marketing and extend your reach.

The great part about a live panel is that it provides you with the ability to engage in real time with prospects and customers while providing content you can reuse as part of your editorial calendar.

What else would you suggest to create additional content from a live panel and why?

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen

Creator Economy Expo
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Photo Credit: (c)2013 Heidi Cohen – On Demand Conference in NYC with Joe Pulizzi and Ann Handley

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