For example, as a speaker I love to observe conferences where attendees get to "meet the expert" for a series of small-table meetings, usually around 30 to 40 minutes each...moving from one table to the next in a big ballroom. They can ask questions and meet others with similar interests or needs (including vendors at the table) and, if there is a break planned after this session, continue the conversation.
But panels can be disasters if the facilitator lets one person talk too long.
But if you have a popular leader in the group who is willing to lead the panel, here's my favorite format--done it about 32 times: Ask three smart experts who are willing to be direct and/or blunt to participate on the panel. Good types to include are an experienced reporter who covers the profession or industry of the attendees, an investment banker who tracks that industry/profession, and an exhibitor who is sufficiently successful to want to be pithy and helpful. Introduce the panelists and the rules at the beginning of the session. Note that blank cards on seats are for attendees' questions, and that a committee will pick the best mix for those submitted. Ask attendees to write questions as they think of them, and then pass their questions to the aisle for collection.
Ask each panelist to give their best two or three tips for the audience (trends, opportunities, pitfalls to avoid, etc.) in no more than six minutes - yes six!... the panel leader rings a loud bell when time is up. After each panelist has spoken, the leader begins the Q & A, reading from the written questions.
As the attendees leave the room they get the handout with each panelist's bio and summary of his/her tips. This format draws rave reviews--especially among younger people who are most antsy with the passive style of most meetings.
For Kare’s ideas on how to involve the senses to create a more memorable meeting, click here.
What are your best strategies for keeping a meeting engaging?
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