Besides delivering educational value, a virtual panel discussion can also be a potent strategy for growing an audience and generating quality leads for your business. More than anything else, the interactive nature of panel discussions allows the audience to express their needs, challenges, and pain points freely in a trustworthy environment.
Moreover, bringing in experts as panelists with diverse perspectives from different backgrounds often adds an extra point of attraction for the target audience.
Another interesting part is that panelists sharing the content after hosting a panel discussion creates opportunities for growing brand awareness. In essence, continuous sharing of the content generated from the discussion will have a multiplier effect on your brand visibility, website traffic volume, and lead generation pipeline.
And that's the benefit of using a virtual event software platform like Cloudpresenter. In addition to generating sharable content from a panel discussion, the interactive elements on the platform will help you increase audience engagement during and after the event.
Through this detailed guide, you'll learn how to host virtual panel discussions that will continue to benefit your company in the long term.
What is a virtual panel discussion?
A panel discussion is a public discourse or presentation format in which a group of experts with specialized knowledge or experience in a particular field or topic engage in a structured conversation before an audience. Usually, these experts range from 2 – 5 panelists selected from different companies, job roles, or industries.
Each panelist typically shares insights, opinions, and perspectives on the subject matter, fostering a dynamic exchange of ideas and facilitating a comprehensive exploration of the topic. Panel discussions are commonly utilized in conferences, seminars, and forums to provide diverse viewpoints and stimulate meaningful discussions among participants, offering a well-rounded understanding of complex issues or topics.
Depending on your company's preference or target goals, you may host offline, in-person panel or virtual panel discussions with the best tools built for that.
Why host a virtual panel discussion?
If you have just signed up for one event software platform, you might be curious about the best ways to get the most value out of it. Look no further. Below is a brief highlight of the benefits of hosting virtual panel discussions for your company.
Global reach: Hosting virtual panel discussions allows organizers to reach a global audience. Unlike physical events limited by geographic constraints, virtual panels can attract participants and panelists worldwide. Interestingly, online events broaden the pool of expertise and perspectives, making the discussion more diverse and inclusive.
Cost-Effective: Virtual panels are often more cost-effective than in-person events. Organizers can save on venue rental, travel expenses for panelists, and catering, making it a budget-friendly option. This cost efficiency can also reduce registration fees, making the event accessible to more participants.
Flexibility: Virtual panel discussions offer greater flexibility in terms of scheduling. Panelists and attendees can join from anywhere via the Internet, reducing scheduling conflicts and time zone challenges. This flexibility makes it easier to coordinate panelists' availability and accommodate diverse time zones. Interestingly, time zone flexibility is an important factor in hosting a successful panel discussion.
Enhanced audience engagement: Virtual platforms often provide various interactive tools such as chat rooms, Q&A sessions, breakout rooms, and polls. These features enable better audience member engagement, allowing participants to ask questions in real-time, share their opinions, and actively contribute to the discussion, enhancing the overall experience. Moreover, a panel moderator can also use these platform features to answer questions from the audience.
Recording and accessibility: Virtual panel discussions are usually available for on-demand viewing. And that online availability benefits those who couldn't attend the live event or want to revisit the content. It also extends the lifespan of the discussion, reaching a wider audience over time.
Data analytics: Virtual platforms offer valuable data analytics tools that can help moderators understand participant behavior and preferences. They can track attendance, engagement metrics, and audience demographics, providing insights for future panel discussions and content development.
Types of panel discussion you can host
Expert discussion panel
An expert panel typically comprises subject matter experts within the company or industry. These discussions aim to showcase the company's knowledge and thought leadership. They can be used to share insights, address industry trends, and position your company as an authority in its field. Expert panels are valuable for educating stakeholders, building credibility, and establishing the company as a resource for information.
Customer panels involve real customers or clients who share their experiences and feedback on the company's products or services. These discussions provide authentic testimonials and insights, helping build trust and credibility with potential customers. Customer panels also offer an opportunity to address concerns, gather feedback for improvement, and demonstrate the company's commitment to customer satisfaction.
Employee panels feature company employees from various roles and departments, discussing workplace culture, career growth, and industry insights. These discussions can enhance internal communication, promote employee engagement, and showcase the company's commitment to its workforce. Employee panels can also attract talent by highlighting the company's positive workplace environment.
Each type of panel discussion serves a specific purpose: establishing expertise, building trust with customers, or fostering a positive company culture.
Virtual panel discussion ideas for beginners
Industry trends: Discuss the current trends and emerging developments in your industry.
Startup success stories: Invite founders or entrepreneurs to share their startup journeys and lessons learned.
Diversity and inclusion: Explore the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
Digital marketing strategies: Cover effective digital marketing tactics and strategies for beginners.
Remote work best practices: Share insights on remote work productivity and collaboration.
Personal development: Discuss personal growth, goal-setting, and time management.
Sustainability and eco-friendly practices: Explore sustainable business practices and environmental responsibility.
Health and Wellness: Focus on physical and mental well-being in the workplace.
Social media for business: Examine how businesses can leverage social media for marketing and brand building.
How to host a successful panel discussion
Selecting an online event platform that supports an interactive panel format
Choosing the right event platform is crucial. Research and compare platforms based on your event's size and requirements. Consider factors like cost, scalability, and available features.
Look for platforms that offer technical support or customer service during your event to address any unexpected issues promptly. Test the platform on various devices, ensuring compatibility and accessibility for your audience. Familiarize yourself with the platform's interface and features, such as chat, Q&A, and screen sharing, so that you can manage the discussion effectively.
Carefully select panelists based on their expertise and relevance to the discussion topic. Communicate the event's format, objectives, and time commitment to potential panelists. Coordinate with panelists to gather their presentation materials, slides, or any visual aids they plan to use during the discussion. Provide guidelines on virtual etiquette, such as muting when not speaking, using a stable internet connection, and ensuring good lighting and audio quality.
Conduct a rehearsal with panelists to ensure they are comfortable with the virtual platform and the flow of the discussion.
Setting a date and time:
Choose a date and time that accommodates the schedules of your panelists and target audience. Consider time zones and aim for a time convenient for your global audience, if applicable. Use scheduling tools or apps to find a suitable time for everyone involved.
Determine the duration of the discussion; typically, 60-90 minutes is a good range to keep the audience engaged on the main purpose of a panel. To avoid confusion, send calendar invitations to panelists and audience, including clear time zone information.
Promote the panel event ahead of the date
Hosting a great panel discussion requires a proactive promotion strategy. To attract potential attendees, create compelling promotional materials, including event graphics, banners, and social media posts. Use social media advertising, email marketing, and targeted outreach to reach your intended audience.
Make time to update your website and social media channels with event details and registration links. Another important step is implementing an easy-to-use registration process through the chosen event platform, allowing you to manage attendees efficiently.
Consider offering early bird registration incentives or discounts to boost registration numbers.
Rehearsal and technical setup
Conduct a thorough technical check before the event to ensure all panelists have the necessary equipment and it works correctly. Assign a dedicated technical support person to troubleshoot any technical issues during the event. Familiarize panelists with the virtual platform's features, including screen sharing, chat moderation, and Q&A management. Practice transitions between panelists, slides, and other visual aids to ensure a smooth flow during the actual discussion.
Choose a skilled moderator
Appoint an experienced moderator who can keep the conversation on track, introduce panelists, and facilitate Q&A sessions effectively. Ensure you encourage panelists to engage with the audience by addressing attendees by name when responding to questions or comments.
Monitor the chats for relevant questions and comments, and prioritize those that enhance the discussion. Leverage the interactive features of the virtual event platform, such as polls and surveys, to engage the audience and gather feedback. You can also moderate a panel by bringing attendees to the virtual speaking stage.
Most importantly, prepare a contingency plan for handling technical issues or disruptions to minimize their impact on the panel session. Make sure your contingency plan is in place before moderating a panel discussion.
Panel discussion best practices you should keep in view
Thorough preparation: Adequate preparation is key. Moderators and panelists should research the topic, understand the audience, and be familiar with the format and topic of discussion. As part of the preparation process, try to choose a great panel discussion format that will suit your goals.
Diverse panelists: Invite panelists with diverse perspectives and expertise related to the topic. This diversity enriches the discussion and provides different viewpoints focused on the purpose of a panel discussion.
Clear objectives: Define clear objectives for the panel discussion. What do you want attendees to learn or take away from the event? Ensure that the discussion stays focused on these goals.
Effective moderation: Appoint an experienced moderator to guide the conversation, manage time, and facilitate engagement. The moderator should keep the conversation on track and ensure all panelists have a chance to contribute.
Engage the audience: Encourage panel member engagement through interactive elements like Q&A sessions, polls, and chat features. Address audience questions and comments to make attendees feel involved.
Structured format: Create a structured format for the discussion, including an introduction, panelist presentations, a moderated forum, and a conclusion. Stick to the schedule to maintain flow.
Visual aids: If applicable, use visual aids like slides or videos to enhance panelists' presentations. Ensure these aids are clear and relevant when you are ready to host your panel discussion.
Respectful debate: Encourage panelists to express their opinions respectfully, even in cases of disagreement. A respectful and constructive debate can engage panel members and promote understanding.
Time management: Allocate time to each discussion segment, including panelist presentations and audience interaction. Keep the discussion within the scheduled time frame to respect attendees' time.
Post-event follow-up: After the panel discussion, follow up with attendees by sharing resources, recordings, or additional content related to the topic. Collect feedback to improve future events. You may also send survey questions at the end of the online event.
Frequently asked questions about the panel discussion
What makes a good panel discussion?
A good panel discussion features diverse and knowledgeable panelists, a clear and relevant topic, and effective moderation to foster engaging dialogue and audience interaction. It maintains a structured format, respects time constraints, and encourages respectful debate among panelists. Post-event follow-up also contributes to its success regardless of the chosen panel discussion formats.
How do you collect questions for a panel discussion?
Before the event, you can collect questions for a panel discussion by using audience pre-submissions through email or online forms. During the discussion, encourage real-time questions through a designated Q&A platform or chat and have a moderator select and pose them to the panelists.
How do I become a good virtual moderator?
You can become a good virtual moderator by understanding the discussion's topic and objectives, enabling you to guide the conversation effectively. Commit to developing strong communication and active listening skills to engage panelists and the audience. Lastly, maintain time management and adaptability, ensuring a smooth and inclusive virtual discussion experience.
There are many potential benefits of hosting virtual panel discussions for your company. However, you can only experience such benefits when you commit to taking the right steps. And here, you have a practical guide to put you on the right track.
Before anything else, you need to choose the best virtual event software platform with all the interactive features to keep the panel participants engaged throughout the event.
Moreover, keeping the discussion focused on a specific topic is something you have to do from the beginning to the end.
Irrespective of the type of panel, make sure the moderator and panelists answer audience questions in a way that fosters mutual connection. From the planning stage, ensure that the chosen platform or subscription plan will give enough space to record the structured panel discussion for subsequent sharing. Remember, the real essence of panels is to bring experts with different perspectives, so ensure you select panelists with deep experiences to enrich the discussion.