, 10 tweets, 3 min read Read on Twitter
Over the past years, I’ve participated in dozens of panels, and sat through hundreds more.

Most of them had one thing in common: they sucked.

It doesn’t have to be like that. So here are my six rules for (panel) life.


1) Don’t Put More than Four People Onstage

I know you’re under pressure from marketing. I know you need to feature the sponsor. I know you don’t want to axe the one speaker with something to say.

But if you have over three panelists, there won't be a real conversation. Don’t.
2) Keep Introductions to a Minimum

Don't have someone introduce someone who introduces someone else. And never take more than 20 seconds for any single intro.

Much of the audience will already know who’s onstage. And everyone else can consult the program, or the internet.
3) Ax the Opening Statements

Asked to speak for five minutes, the first panelist will go on for seven, the second for 10 and the third for 15. Half of your time has already been wasted on disconnected monologues.

So ax the opening statements, going straight to the conversation.
4) Guide the Conversation

As a moderator, you’re the audience’s advocate.

If panelists are incomprehensible, ask for explanation. If they drone on, pass the baton. If they talk past each other, make them engage.

It’s your duty to turn the panel into a real exchange of ideas.
5) Cut Off the Cranks

How do you stop cranks from taking over the Q&A?Set out clear rules before you open the floor:

* Emphasize that you're looking for concise questions, not long rants.

* Make clear that you will cut people off if they go on for longer than 20 seconds.

6) Pick Panelists With Diverse Perspectives on an Important Topic

Choose a topic in which your audience will genuinely be interested. Make sure your speakers bring different perspectives and backgrounds to the stage.

If everyone agrees on everything, the audience will be bored.
A good panel is a public conversation among interesting people who have real disagreements about an important topic.

If you follow this simple advice, you’re well on your way toward organizing such a panel.

Congratulations! I promise your audience will be very grateful...
Did I miss anything important? Do you disagree with any of this? Or want to tell us your personal panel horror story?


And please share my article @TheAtlantic so we all have to sit through as few bad panels as possible…

[The End.]

@TheAtlantic Excellent post on the same topic by @helenlewis.

We agree on much, but her treatment adds some interesting thoughts, like: "Don’t rely on the audience to come up with a last killer question. Have something prepared yourself."

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