After the summer break, we are now back in the world of webinars, hybrid and in-person events.

I am being asked to moderate panel discussions – sometimes four or five consecutively on the same day – each with far too many people to have a real discussion. And if they are discussions and not “panel presentations”, they are far too scripted, predictable, and tell the audience little if anything they didn’t already know.

Audiences tell me that most panels are pointless. I would agree unless they are well-moderated, audience-centric, and have the right speakers for the subject.

It was therefore a joy in June to see a wonderfully moderated panel discussion at the Better Cotton Conference in Amsterdam where I was the Master of Ceremonies.

Hats off to Antonie Fountain from the Voice Network and Ashlee Tuttleman from the Sustainable Trade Initiative for leading a dynamic and innovative session on sustainable livelihoods. Here is what they did so well:

• Antonie showed that you can take a serious subject and make it engaging. Through great use of simple visuals (slides for example with one word on them) plus video clips from Monty Python and Indiana Jones, he gave us a captivating keynote about the lessons learned from the cocoa industry in building more sustainable livelihoods.

© Dennis Bouman – Contact before commercial use

• He and Ashlee then kept up the pace and energy by running a 20-minute quiz on Mentimeter for the online and in-person audience in which they debunked five myths about sustainable livelihoods.

© Dennis Bouman – Contact before commercial use

© Dennis Bouman – Contact before commercial use

They went into the audience and engaged with them about their answers.
• And then the “piece de resistance”. They asked the three winners of the quiz to come on stage for an impromptu panel discussion.

© Dennis Bouman – Contact before commercial use

• The panelists were great, proving that often the real knowledge lies with the audience!

In fact, the 2-day conference was packed with variety and different formats to keep the audience engaged, and most importantly entertained. As you can read here, they also elevated their event by engaging a graphic artist.

If you are running an event or panel discussion, I would be delighted to advise on how to make it something that the audience will always remember. I can also train your teams to moderate and MC, in case you don’t want to employ a professional moderator!