7 Tips for Conducting Large Conference Panels
The DMA:2010’s Social Media Face-Off presented nine high profile social media mavens and gave the crowd a chance to choose who was best. Like contestants on a television game show, the marketing experts gathered to share their pearls of social media wisdom derived from their experience with different brands and companies across a variety of social media platforms. Using mobile voting technology supplied by Mobile Fusion, the audience was empowered to vote for their favorite social media contender.
Larger panels provide more diverse perspectives and can be useful personal marketing forums. But by their nature, large panels, those with more than four members, require more preparation and special guidelines to ensure that all participants get to have a chance to make their key points. Here are seven suggestions to help plan your next event.
- Engage your audience. The use of mobile voting for the Social Media Face-Off was a great way to connect the live audience with the event and its outcome.
- Expand your reach. The viewers could share nuggets of information on Twitter via the DMA Annual’s hashtag (#DMA2010). The use of a special panel specific hashtag like #DMA2010SMFO would have better enabled people who weren’t present to follow the event on Twitter. It would also have been cool for there to have been a large display showcasing the event’s live Twitter feed in the room.
- Invite rock stars to the party. While the Social Media Face-Off participants gave useful insights, high visibility practitioners, like B. Bonin Bough of Pepsi Refresh fame and Chris Brogan who’s number one on Ad Age’s Power 150 both of whom had presented earlier in the conference, would have added immensely to glitter factor. Why not try to corral all headline making specialists possible?
- Prep the panelists. Just as actors practice their lines, give the panelists a set of questions so they can develop and practice their answers in advance to fit into a short time limit, say one or two minutes.
- Create sharable sound bites. Participants should use this opportunity to deliver useful bits of memorable content to listeners. Remember some audience members are tweeting and blogging in real time! Brian Solis was the clear winner in this realm. He used every opportunity at the mike to make a point. His new twist on the much used search and social media phrase, “Content is king” was my favorite line of the session. Brian modified this axiom to “Context is king.” While content is a critical component of social media marketing, he argued that the context in which the content is presented has a greater impact on how those engaged in the conversation understand its meaning.
- Share the limelight. No one member of the panel should be allowed to steal the show. During the Social Media Face-Off, one participant had enough self-awareness to announce that he was talking too long and probably wouldn’t win if he didn’t let others talk. But he didn’t cut short his remarks.
- Blow the whistle. One of the moderator’s functions is to ensure that everyone on the panel gets a fair chance and that no one member is a stage hog. Where necessary, this means cutting people off in a polite manner.
As a consultant, professor and columnist, I attend and participate in many trade shows and panel discussions. In my experience, many panelists and their companies miss a great opportunity to connect with their audience in a meaningful way by not thinking through and practicing their remarks before hand. By contrast, the Influencer Project, billed as the world’s shortest marketing conference, got its presenters to perfect their sixty-second spots.
Use this list as an outline to help you steer your next panel to great reviews!
For related panel and event advice, please read the following posts:
- 5 Keys to Effective Conference Presentations
- 5 Social Media Tactics to Enhance Live Events–Lessons from DMA:2010
- Social Media Day 2010 Lessons
Photo credit: pasukaru76 via Flickr