Sarah Fejfar 0:00
This whole soapbox on tech and furniture logistics of in person panels really is all about invest in it. If you're going to choose to have a panel discussion at your event, then decide you're going to invest in it so that it looks good.
Sarah Fejfar 0:17
How are entrepreneurs like us daring bravely to build a stage? Ditch the sweat pants and step up to the mic? How do we create our own transformative offense? So we can get our message out into the world in a bigger way. It's not only profitable, but it's actually something we can be proud of.
Sarah Fejfar 0:38
That's the question. And the answers are inside this podcast. My name is Sarah Fejfar. Welcome to greenroom Central.
Sarah Fejfar 0:45
Have you ever watched a panel discussion that felt awkward? The truth is, it's because they weren't prepared. Keep listening for five things to know if you're ever going to plan a panel for your next event, because I want to help ensure that yours doesn't look like a train wreck. Isn't it true that there's something really interesting about watching a group of people have a discussion live in front of you, whether it's virtually or in person, there's just something about being a fly on the wall and watching other people interact?
Sarah Fejfar 1:22
And the crazy thing is, when it's moderated well, it feels effortless, and like a joy in their sense of ease about watching it as the guest is the person in the audience. And then there's just something you could just feel it as a guest. Something's off when the moderation isn't pro team and just tell that it doesn't flow seamlessly and feeling like weird. Is the person in the seat watching and almost want to turn it off? Or walk out? Have you ever felt that way? I know I have. I think it's kind of like watching reality TV, sometimes. It just holds our rapt attention. And other times it's like this is just like, awkward and a waste of my time.
Sarah Fejfar 2:18
And so I want to help you learn what what it's all about, so that you do not feel uncomfortable about adding a panel discussion to your next event. That brings me the first thing I want to talk about which with you, which is why why should we even add panel discussions to our events. I personally am a fan. I think panel discussions are engaging, because it keeps us guessing we don't know who's going to talk next, we don't know where the conversations gonna go. It's kind of like a choose your own adventure story. For that reason, it's it's the shiny object that can keep our guests attention.
Sarah Fejfar 3:04
And so, you know, we're always looking to add more shiny objects to keep our guests engaged. And a panel discussion definitely is a tool in that, that toolbox for you to pull out sparingly. I also think not only are they engaging, but I also think they are a way to get more voices heard. So a panel discussion is a really safe place for inexperienced presenters to get their start. Some people aren't ready to hold space on a stage by themselves. It's just the truth. And maybe they might never be ready for that. And in which case, a panel discussion allows them to feel really safe because they're surrounded by other people and feel like they're supported because there's a moderator that's constantly there to nudge them along or pick up a train of thought if if they were getting lost in it.
Sarah Fejfar 4:14
It's just awesome for inexperienced presenters. And third, I like them because there's less work on your behalf as the CEO who's leading the event to prepare content. I think a great panel, perhaps has some pre prepared questions. But beyond that your work as an event host is it's pretty light lifting from a curriculum standpoint. So that is why I love panel discussions. And why I think if you haven't yet considered them that I think you should consider adding them for your next event. Now, if we can both agree that a panel is happening, then the next thing I want to chat with you about is about choosing your moderator wisely.
Sarah Fejfar 5:18
And I know that perhaps this wasn't even a conversation that you thought you needed to have. But it is some people are not cut out to be a moderator. And I think, I think when you watch other moderators, you'll notice pretty quickly, there are just some people who are cut out for the gift of gab, and for being excellent listeners, and people who are able to recap with ease. And then there's some people that aren't.
Sarah Fejfar 5:56
And so if you know that, that's a you, I would strongly recommend that you be the one who moderates the panels at your event, I'm all about elevating your position, as a thought leader as an expert at and you acting as the moderator is a natural extension of elevating your position as that thought leader and expert that you are, so it should be you. But if you don't think it's you, then the criteria I like to use for selecting a moderator are first need them to be a great listener. Second, they need to be able to recap on the fly with ease. And third, like we talked about someone with a gift of gab, someone who's able to effortlessly fill in spaces in the conversation, someone who's able to naturally change directions with ease. They're just, they're great on the fly. Yeah, I think that's the way to describe it.
Sarah Fejfar 7:18
So first, we talked about why. Second, we just talked about choosing your moderator wisely. Last thing I forgot, I want to mention is when you're choosing your moderator, think about it doesn't have to be a person who's let's say you're you're putting up an a panel of experts on let's call it Facebook advertising, because the first thing that comes to my mind, well, if you don't have to have a moderator who is an expert at Facebook advertising, I think your moderator should be an expert at whatever the guests in your audience are.
Sarah Fejfar 8:04
And because I think that helps them think through the line of questioning and pulling out of the panelists the nuggets of wisdom that is going to be most valuable to the audience. Okay. So think about that, as you choose your moderator. The third thing I want to chat about is prepping your panelists. And this is a huge sign of respect. And it is a way of ensuring that your panel looks appears is equitable.
Sarah Fejfar 8:52
So one of the things that makes panels feel awkward is when someone is stealing the thunder, someone's just talking the whole time. And it's possible that can happen if the panelists aren't selected carefully. But it's also possible that it can happen with the best of intention like the panelists who have the best of intentions, because if the panelists aren't all prepped with the exact same information, then they're coming to the table with different expectations.
Sarah Fejfar 9:42
Or maybe they heard the same instructions, but it you know, like there's a difference between like hearing and understanding. And sometimes there's a block in the middle. And so I think it's so important that your prep your panelists in an equitable fashion so you've You've given all of them the exact same information. And then you've asked them to repeat that information back to you so that you aren't you know, that they understood what the mission is.
Sarah Fejfar 10:11
Let me give an example. I've seen it where presenters on a panel were prepped with the information that they all were going to have an opportunity during the panel discussion to share a tip or a tactic and to make sure to keep their their explanation of that to five minutes or less. Well, some people could take that to interpret it as oh, I need to have a five minute presentation made it so I'm going to make a slide deck. And I'm going to time myself, I'm going to practice those five minutes. Well, can you imagine what would happen if a panel all shows up?
Sarah Fejfar 10:58
And a couple of them have a slide deck prepared a five minute speech? And then a few of them came with just some notes and some ideas to share? What can you picture how that would look? It wouldn't look equitable live with and look like everyone had the same kind of weight on the stage, if you will. And so I think it's really important that not only you share that information about what the expectations are for the panel, but then you also have them repeat it back to you. So that and then you check in again, with them, let's say like a week or two before the presentation to make sure that that we're all tracking on the same page.
Sarah Fejfar 11:44
Okay. I think that's so important that you're prepping your panelists in an equal fashion and just really keeping tabs on them. I also think it's even a great idea to have them all on the same call together before the event. If you can't meet in person, it is great to have them gathered together virtually. And just get to know one any shot one another and share what they're thinking about sharing. Have a conversation about what questions you think would be the best questions for the moderator to ask. Those are all great ways to prep a panel. Now, most of the weights of making sure that the panel isn't awkward falls on the moderator.
Sarah Fejfar 12:35
And so I've got a few tips here on pro team moderation tips. First is I want you as the moderator to have a paper and a pen. When have you ever watched any sort of news program where they're all sitting around the couches having a conversation and they didn't have something in front of them to write on or reference, right? It's a thing. And the reason why I want you to have a paper and a pen is first, if it's a large panel, you're going to want to make sure that you're putting cash marks down next everyone's name every time you ask them a question, because we want to keep it balanced. Right?
Sarah Fejfar 13:25
If if someone's talking all the time answering all the questions being asked all the questions first, it feels awkward. So if you can have come prepared with a piece of paper with everyone's names on it, and a pen, you can make hash marks about how many times they've spoken. And even who went first, each time you asked a question that's really helpful in making sure that it feels equitable. Second, come prepared with a list of questions.
Sarah Fejfar 13:58
It does fall on you as the moderator to make sure that you've connected with each of the panelists in advance and figured out what uh, what's their superpower? Was their, like, area of expertise, what would be you know, in an ideal world, if they only had a few minutes, like what would be the thing that they would want to share about and make sure you've got a question in there that helps tease that out.
Sarah Fejfar 14:26
Another thing is ensuring that their introductions are equitable. And so as the moderator you can make sure that you, you say, Okay, I want everybody to go around around the room, we're gonna, we're gonna say, you know, where you're from the name of your business and what you'd like to do for fun, but be very specific, very concise, brief to, because, remember, the audience has to hear this says apparel five times five. And so it's helps when we give boundaries in panel discussions so that it really looks balanced to the guests.
Sarah Fejfar 15:18
I feel like that's the theme of this samples episode how to run a balanced panel discussion. But I think balance helps ease the awkwardness. I think the biggest culprit of awkward is unbalanced panel discussions. And so this episode is all about how to create balance. Now, the fifth thing I want to talk with you about our logistics, I love logistics, huge fan of logistics, I could make it a bumper sticker, I think for the topic of panel discussions, obviously, they can be done in person in zoom.
Sarah Fejfar 16:05
So I'll kind of divide up these tips that I have for you between those two ways of delivering a panel first, if it's in zoom, I love for you to partner with a production company, if it's within your budget, so that you can have your panelists boxed, and have lower thirds made, so that they always have their like their name underneath their video that it's, it looks less like a zoom and more like something beautiful, where you can have the moderator perhaps in a larger box on the side. And then smaller, organized boxes for the guests on the other side of the screen looks really nice.
Sarah Fejfar 16:50
Otherwise, just run it in zoom and pin people. And that's easy peasy as well. Not too much heavy lifting to do if you're doing a panel, and it's virtual. Now, if you're doing a panel and it is in person, then there's some fun. And work involved. Frankly, I always think that when there is a panel on the agenda for an in person event, it is my excuse and permission to run to the florist. I love every opportunity to include flowers in an event. And perhaps I was supposed to be a wedding florist in a prior life. I don't know. I mean, I do want to have a flower farm, eventually, for my own personal use, to be able to guest give flowers to friends too.
Sarah Fejfar 17:52
But when it comes to events, I love to incorporate flowers wherever I can, in a panel discussions a great opportunity, because you got to have some, some places for your eyes to rest in, in a way to kind of organize, give some structure to everyone who's sitting there. And so I do love to have some side tables on the stage and a coffee table if possible. And I think the flowers would go on the coffee table. And then it just kind of elevates the whole look. And then obviously, you've got chairs, and I'll come back to that.
Sarah Fejfar 18:34
And then you've got side tables next to each of the guests. And I don't think flowers need to go on all of those. But I do love to have side panels for people's water. Let's talk about the chairs. It's a huge deal. For a couple reasons. First, when you are looking at a panel from the audience, you want to see everybody and make and just have this illusion that everyone is engaged and interested in the conversation. And unfortunately, when we have a certain type of chair on stage, it can give the illusion that some of the panelists don't care.
Sarah Fejfar 19:23
The not so gentle way to put it. Chairs need to have the guests sitting like pretty upright. And I know it's kind of hard to describe. But I know there's some there's some chairs that look good, like they're just beautiful club chairs. But then when you put them on a stage and you have someone sit in it, they're just like sitting tilting back too far. And it doesn't look good on camera and it doesn't look good. From an audience perspective. It just makes people look like they're kind of slacking and not caring and so is important.
Sarah Fejfar 20:00
To get a chair that that has some, some weight to it, because it's going to need to take up some space on stage but not too much weight because you don't want them to be spread out like a football field wide on stage. And then you want them to be having guests kind of sit upright, making lots of wild gestures with my hands, you're in order to try and describe this can be awkward, and also beautiful opportunity with chairs on a stage for a panel. The weird thing is, I think people think about the chairs, like last minute or not at all, and then try to rush and grab something from the hotel.
Sarah Fejfar 20:44
My preference is that put a lot of thought and budget behind it and go to decor rental company and get furniture delivered. That is meant for panel discussions that has the aesthetic that you're looking for. And that's why panels can end up costing a lot of money for an in person event because of all of the rental furniture, but it's just it is it is a sensitive topic, you could tell for me, where I just feel like the chairs have to be just right. Again, we don't want them taking up so much space on stage, we do want them having some weight, we want them having people sit up.
Sarah Fejfar 21:25
And also height is the thing to think about. I know this might sound crazy, but some people have vertigo issues. And so sitting on a stool where their legs are dangling and they're sitting on stage with the lights and the pressure of the crowd can make people want to feel like they're gonna pass out. And so it is a good idea to default to chairs that are low to the ground like a club chair. And so people's feet are directly on the ground. But if you have to for whatever reason, or you desire to and you've checked with all your guests to make sure they don't have vertigo issues, then if you're going to do a higher stool, make sure it has a foot bar so that your your panelists have some place to put their feet. So that is my soapbox on chairs.
Sarah Fejfar 22:21
And feel free to drop into my DMs over on Instagram if you want to continue the discussion because I could clearly talk all day about chairs for panel discussions. But so we talked about chairs, we talked about side tables, coffee tables, places to put the water another thing that you could rent. Again, driving up the cost of this panel discussion, super simple panel discussion is a rug. I think it is nice to have a rug that is larger than all of this like furniture arrangement that you're putting on the stage to kind of encompass it all looks nice. That's all of like the Furniture Rental stuff.
Sarah Fejfar 23:03
Now from a technical standpoint, microphones I surprise, surprise, have a strong position on microphones for panel discussions, I really believe that every panelists should have a wireless lav or some sort of mic that's to their like on their person. I don't like it when panels share a handheld mic. And typically that happens, because the event leader wants to keep the cost down for TAC. And so instead of ordering eight mics, they order like two. And it is a excellent way to save costs. I don't recommend it for panel discussions is another thing that causes awkwardness when there's the passing of the mic between people. And there's that space of time when the question has been answered.
Sarah Fejfar 24:06
But then the asked but then the person who who's going to answer doesn't have the mic and there's the passing of the mic happening. It's awkward, that silence doesn't feel good. It's also wasting the audience's time. And so I'm, I'm really a big fan of wireless mics for everybody who's on your panel. For that reason, and then also because most people are not trained to speak into a handheld mic. And so they won't hold it as close to their mouth as it needs to be because they feel a little embarrassed and awkward. And so that will hold it down far, far further than it should be.
Sarah Fejfar 24:53
And so then you're having mic issues throughout the whole panel which be if people can And here, they're gonna check out as one of the fastest ways to lose engagement during an event. If someone can't hear or see this whole soapbox on tech and furniture logistics of in person panels really is all about invest in it. If you're going to choose to have a panel discussion at your event, then decide you're going to invest in it so that it looks good. Okay. Ah, that was a lot. But I'm passionate about panel discussions because they can be so valuable to the audience. And engaging. And when done right, and it really we're not talking about rocket science here.
Sarah Fejfar 25:51
This is not, this is not tough stuff. It's just intentionality and a little bit of investment to All right. So I hope that you're feeling encouraged to include panel discussions in your next event. And if questions came up, please drop them into my DMs over on Instagram. Thanks for hanging out with me today. Take care. Thank you for listening to the greenroom central podcast. If you love this episode, then please take a screenshot on your phone and post it to Instagram. And be sure to tag at Sarah Fejfar. And let me know why you liked it and what you'd like to hear or who you'd like to hear from the future. They'll help me know what to create for you.
Sarah Fejfar 26:34
Also, if it's on your heart to host your first or next event in 2023 and you need a jumpstart let's connect for a strategy session, just go to greenroom central.com. In a two hour intensive private session. I can help you pivot scale or start your event vision from scratch. Together, we will build an actionable plan so that you feel confident and clear on your next steps. Go to green room central.com right now to sign up.
Sarah Fejfar 27:00
I appreciate your commitment to leveling up and learning the mindset and strategy of live events. Keep going, keep learning. If you want more, head over to greenroom central.com For show notes and all the links from today's episode.