When many experts and specialists in their field are asked to do this, they discover that it is not as easy as they imagined.
Pitching and introducing the session, involving everyone, promoting audience engagement, dealing with difficult panellists and ending the discussion can all be a challenge for inexperienced facilitators.
We have recently run several panel facilitation training sessions, hosted by experienced facilitator and BBC presenter Martine Croxall. Here are some of her quick tips on successful panel facilitation:
Preparation – ask yourself:
- What the purpose of the panel is – why are you holding this session?
- Who the audience will be
- What are the themes and subject areas?
- Who the panellists will be & how you will introduce them.
- What research resources will you have available? Make sure you are fully briefed on the subject, and know the essentials of what your panellists are going to say.
- Will the panellists give a short introduction or opening statement themselves?
- How you will introduce the subject & what questions will you ask of the panel to stimulate discussion?
- The format – is it online or in person, who will sit where, will there be a lecturn?
- What will the structure of the panel be, and will there be any visuals or audio included?
- Will there be questions from the audience, and who will field those?
- What support is available for technical issues?
- What the timings are for the session – so therefore how much time can you allocate to your introductions, questions for the panel and any Q and A afterwards?
During the panel:
- Make sure you know your brief
- Have a clear plan
- Consider who should sit where, to encourage everyone to participate
- Listen carefully to what people say, so you can ask follow up questions or pick up points to put to other panellists
- Be aware of the timings throughout, so you keep the session on track
Finally, Martine stresses that, as with any skill, it’s important to PRACTISE, REVIEW AND REFINE.
Our panel facilitation training
This workshop focuses on providing delegates with the techniques and confidence they need to chair panel debates effectively.
It is delivered by Martine Croxall and is highly interactive, blending theory with practical exercises. It will cover:
- preparation, including audience analysis and research
- how to pitch a panel
- how to introduce a panel
- how to involve everyone in the discussion
- audience engagement
- how to deal with difficult panellists
- how to end a discussion
Each delegate will have the chance to chair a panel discussion, with the other delegates and Martine playing different roles as panellists.