As in-person events move to online spaces, finding ways to make them just as engaging and informative as face-to-face gatherings can be challenging. But the good news is that with a little planning, helpful hints and virtual event giveaways, you can create the perfect virtual panel discussion—one that will draw the audience in and get people talking.
1. Be inclusive
Virtual events create multiple opportunities to make your audience feel included. Picking speakers from different businesses, genders and ethnic backgrounds will not only allow your audience to hear diverse voices, it will make for a more lively and informative discussion.
And remember, it’s just as important to consider your audience’s technical needs by ensuring that visual and audio presentations will allow viewers with hearing or visual challenges to participate.
2. Hold a planning session
Before the event takes place, meet with all the panelists to discuss the agenda. At the meeting, determine:
- What you’re hoping the audience will get out of the virtual panel discussion
- Information needed for introducing the panelists
- Questions the panelists will be answering—and in what order they will speak
- Key messages and talking points the panelists will need to prepare
Send them a virtual event giveaway that will make their job easier, like high-end ear buds.
3. Test your tech
Your panelists will be in different locations, using different internet connections, computers, cameras and microphones. Avoid the last-minute scramble to fix technical problems. Test everyone’s tech during your initial planning session and a few minutes before your virtual panel discussion to ensure you can breathe easily once the event starts.
4. Keep things moving
Throughout the discussion, the moderator will need to:
- Introduce the panelists in relation to their expertise on the topic(s)
- Keep an eye on the time to ensure no one panelist dominates the conversation
- Remind the audience—and the speakers—how the ideas discussed and points raised by the panelists relate to one another
5. Encourage participation
Getting audience members to participate during your discussion will make your event much more engaging. To make the most of your event:
- Set up a chat function that lets people pose additional thoughts and ask questions in real time. Have a moderator monitor the questions and pass the most frequent or interesting ones along for discussion. And if someone’s question gets used, send them a prize, like a tote bag or a touchless keychain with stylus, to encourage engagement.
- Create a hashtag people can use on social media to share thoughts and interesting points from the discussion during the panel. Encourage participants to share by sending those who do a notebook or seed packet.
- Take breaks throughout the session to run polls about the topic being discussed.
Craft a perfect panel
A great virtual panel discussion will be filled with ideas, audience interaction and lively conversation. And with careful thought and preplanning, your audience will be talking about the event for a long time to come.