Guide on the Side - Panel PanacheBy Marie Wallace, Published on January 4, 1999
Marie Wallace has enjoyed a fulfilling career as a librarian, beginning in 1951 in academia with the University of California and transitioning in 1971 into the private law library world until her 1995 retirement from O'Melveny & Myers. She is the 1997 recipient of the American Association of Law Libraries' highest honor, the Marian Gould Gallagher Distinguished Service Award. Throughout her professional life, Marie has been a guiding force in the Southern California Association of Law Libraries, Practising Law Institute's programs for law librarians and Teaching Legal Research in Private Law Libraries (TRIPLL).
Today, Marie has commenced on a new path she terms "Life in Progress," which enables her to pursue a diversity of interests as a master swimmer, law librarian, trainer, storyboarder and designer of wearable art. She continues to be a dynamic speaker and prolific writer on such topics as private law library management, presentations and training. She is a member of Toastmasters Internationaland is active with the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD) and in continuing education for private law librarians. She devotes her "free" time to various non-profit and civic activities. Always open to new ideas, Marie can be reached at: [email protected]
|Program planners are partial to panels because they are
versatile. Audiences enjoy them too because they tend to be interactive and the
presentations short and to the point. Panels can be used with many types of audiences:
professional programs, public hearings, as well as on-the-job presentations. Today's
communication-literate professional can benefit from "panel panache"--how to put
a panel together with style and punch.
Consider using a panel when your program objectives are to:
See the panel as a team:
Build a sound infrastructure:
Not all approaches are the same
Determine the approach to the topic before inviting panelists to participate. An approach may be broad, narrow, bring together or separate. The approach depends on the audience's knowledge level of the topic, prevailing attitudes and the goals of the organization sponsoring the program.
|Examples of types of approaches for a panel on proposed legislation seen
to negatively impact the audience's profession can be:
If the audience anticipates certainty or your goal is to motivate them, evaluate the panel format carefully. A single powerful speaker is more likely to get buy-in to the topic. Alternatively, structure the panel to reaffirm the proposed solution. For instance, a program on weight lose with four experts (nutritionist, exercise trainer, psychologist and wellness practitioner) coordinates the main idea and the audience is impelled to action. But if your topic is how to lose weight and four panelists each promote a different diet, the audience is likely to be confused and do nothing.
Panels work well with in-house presentations, allowing different sectors of the enterprise a voice. Panelists can represent departments, staff functions or relevant outside constituencies (vendors and clients) for proposals, training, interviews, and status reports.
How many panelists?
The moderator introduces the topic, the format and the panelists. The audience will want to know why you have chosen the approach. "Pro and con because this is such a hot topic and an election is coming up." "Five different cultural points of view, because our clients are diverse."
Take longer to introduce the topic than each speaker, i.e., three minutes on why this subject and approach for the audience now and one minute for each speaker. Concentrate on what qualifies the speaker to speak on the topic: job title, affiliation, years of experience and relevant degrees. Omit the part about her pet rhino and ten kids.
Indicate how individual speakers will be introduced. Some moderators introduce them all in the beginning and let each panelists turn the lectern over to the next panelist. This avoids a shuffle at the lectern. Another more informal arrangement that promotes continuous discussion is for the panelists to be seated at a table each with a microphone. There is no hard and fast rule on the best way to handle introductions, all at once or serially. When in doubt, discuss it with the panelists for their preference.
Summations and transitions
The moderator should summarize briefly after each panelist. "We have heard management's point of view and now...". Indicate transition to comments or questions. End the panel with a summation of the overall topic and acknowledgement of the panel.
What each panelist needs to know
Who on the panel will cover the "foundation" information for the topic: undisputed facts, basic concepts, maps, diagrams, photographs, glossary, chronology, charts, and statistics.
That time allotments for each panelist will be honored.
Content of handouts other panelists are planning to distribute.
Questions from the audience complete the panel. Announce when they will be accepted during, after each or after all presentations. Allow enough time for the audience to warm up to the issues raised. Floor microphones eliminate repeating the questions.
To encourage the audience to participate, avoid asking "Are there any questions?" A direct question seems to make people's minds go blank. Instead prime the pump with "Which issue do you feel needs to be clarified?" or "What would you like to add?" You can start the ball rolling with a question or arrange for a panelist or member of the audience to ask one.
Another way to handle questions is for the moderator to start by posing questions to the panel. Harvard Law Professor Arthur R. Miller demonstrated this approach at a Graylyn Conference with a panel of 13 law related deans, judges, association officials, partners and librarians on the larger question of legal research skills. This works well when the audience is already well informed on the issues but seeks more understanding and the moderator is highly skilled.
Physical arrangements options and tips
Will panelists speak sitting, standing at a lectern or from projector/computer?