You learn something new every day, or at least you should. In my browsing today, I came across an interesting little article from David Spark over at Spark Media Solutions - More Schmooze, Less Snooze: How to Deliver "The Most Talked About" Conference Session. While the web version of the article is broken up into one or two paragraph sections you can page through like almost like a presentation, you can also grab a pdf and read it in one go.
I've attended my share of conferences and panels, over the past decade or so - both technical and non-technical. I've even helped put together a couple of panel discussions, and I am hoping to do so again sometime soon as part of my church's new adoption ministry. So when I came across the link, I honestly thought, "Heh. Bet it's a bunch of generic advice and a sales pitch for his consulting company."
This is a genuinely interesting, informative, and quick (10-minute) introduction to panel discussions from three significant points of view: that of the panelist, the moderator, and the audience member. I can't recall a single sales pitch in the text other than the expected reference to the author's company. After finishing it, my impression is that this was written, not to showcase Mr. Spark's abilities or companies, but because he honestly wanted to help people learn to do something better.
As I read his advice on how to make a great panel presentation, I found myself thinking back to those experiences. Now, I'm not the mot observant person in the world - I'm downright clueless sometimes - but even I could see the points he was making, and line them up against the panels I've attended. The clueless moderator? Check. Panelists who want to talk about themselves or their company to the exclusion of all else? Check. Panelists who just go on and on and on and... oh, yeah, check.
He gives examples of these and a host of other panel pitfalls, and goes on to give advice on how to deal with the problems if they arise. If you're like me, and you've seen panels done but never understood the how & why of what makes a good panel discussion, then this is definitely interesting reading. If you're an experienced panelist or moderator, then these probably are rules you've either discovered on your own, or come across before; but they're presented in a memorable and easily readable (and remembered) format. Whether the principles presented are new or review, this is a worthwhile way to spend a few minutes if you happen to have a panel discussion somewhere in your future.