Sometimes, a panel presentation is the best way to cover a legal topic. If you are participating in a panel, you have the support of your peers during the presentation and additional shoulders to bear the burden of preparing materials. This can be a good way to break up a complex topic into complementary pieces. But be careful – a panel presentation can be distracting or lack focus, depending on the topic and on whether the panel-members have coordinated with each other.
A panel presentation is also a good format for having Q&A time from the audience and to allow several speakers to share their own experiences with the same topic. TBA recommends panels of two to three presenters with a moderator. Panelists should represent various perspectives and experiences. All panels should factor diversity of the bar.
Planning a Panel Presentation
If you are planning a panel presentation, you should consider whether your topic lends itself to a panel presentation. Consult with TBA staff if you have concerns. Similarly, consider the time allocations. For example, if you are asked to plan a one-hour panel presentation and you ask three panelists, this only allows for 20 minutes per panelist for their total contribution. If you are asking well-known speakers or experts to participate, consider that the audience may want to hear from them more than the allocated time. You would not want to take away from another speaker’s time. You may consider a panel of two speakers in this case.
Plan a call with all panelists well before the presentation to cover what topics each panelist will address, in what order, and time limitations. At a minimum, put together an outline of the presentation for program materials, with bullet points for each presenter and that presenter’s content. If you are planning a Q&A session, you should talk about the types of questions in advance and address on the call who will answer which question – with the goal being each panelist having a chance to respond to the audience.
If you want to engage the audience, you may have them ask questions directly. Even so, you should still prepare questions in advance to supplement the audience questions, just in case the audience is quiet. TBA recommends panels of two to three presenters with a moderator.
Moderating a Panel Presentation
If you are asked to moderate a panel presentation, please consider the guidance provided in “Planning a Panel Presentation” (above). Likewise, we strongly suggest that a call is organized prior to the presentation to outline the goals of the presentation and participation of each panelist. Make sure you know your panelists and your audience.
Introductions are important, but long introductions are not necessary and can take away from the presentation. Therefore, please do not read entire biographies. Biographies of the panelists should be included in the program materials for you to refer to. An appropriate introduction for a panel presentation includes a brief introduction of the moderator and panelists, as well as an introduction to the goals and learning objectives of the presentation. Learning objectives are outcome statements that tell the learner what knowledge or skills they will attain from your presentation. See “Choosing Your Teaching Style/Tips for ALL Styles” above.
As the moderator, you are also the timekeeper. You will need to keep the panelists on track and redirect the presentation if one panelist or an audience member shifts the discussion away too far from the program outline and goals. Be prepared to step in for a panelist who cancels or arrives late.
Arrive early to the program to meet with each panelist before the program. If you plan to participate in the content delivery outside of moderating, consider whom this will impact and the time allocations for each panelist, and make sure that is included in the outline. If you are helping to field audience questions, make sure you repeat them for the panelists and summarize long-winded questions. This will also help later viewers of videotaped programs understand the questions. But above all, be respectful, even with simple or irrelevant questions.
Participating on a Panel
If you are asked to participate in a panel presentation, find out about the program, the topic you are asked to speak on, time allocations and about the audience – before you accept. If a group call is not planned, ask for one to be scheduled far in advance of the program.