Overview – Panel discussions

Panel discussions involve debate by subject matter experts or key influencers on issues critical to the organisation’s success. The panellists are seated on stage at a town hall meeting, conference or leaders forum to provide their insights, give informed advice or answer employees’ questions.

The intent is to shift employee understanding about the identified issue through ideas and points of view that spark a constructive debate. The objective is to foster a shared understanding so the audience can then workshop ways to address the issue. Panels can comprise representatives of the board of directors, leadership team, middle managers, employees, functional support staff, employee groups, unions, customers, clients, shareholders, third-party specialists, suppliers, advisers, or key community stakeholders.

Grey TickThis tactic is useful for:


Identifying obstacles, gaps, re-work, duplication of effort and misallocation of resources.
 Providing a cross-enterprise view of organisational issues.
 Streamlining processes.
Optimising systems.
 Creating a line-of-sight to external stakeholders.

cloudyThings to consider:


Determine the desired outcome: what purpose will the panel discussion fulfil in shifting the audience’s understanding?
 Decide whether the panel discussion will be run as a stand-alone exercise or as part of a larger event.
 Appoint an emcee. Select the panellists. They are people highly informed or experienced in some aspect of the process or issue being scrutinised.
 Meet with the panellists before the event to explain the purpose and intent of the discussion. Facilitate introductions if they do not know each other and give them the opportunity to build rapport. – Stress the importance of conducting a constructive debate with due respect shown to each other.
 Position the panellists on a stage or elevated platform so they can be easily seen by the audience. Provide microphones if the room is large.
Involve the audience in finding solutions to address the issues through follow-on workshops or break-out sessions.

Tone BulbHelpful tip:


Introduce some humor and light-heartedness into the panel discussion, if appropriate. For example, stage the ‘late’ arrival of a fake panelist who proceeds to liven things up with some outlandish claims or statements.
Category: Face to Face