Is it time for the panel discussion format of conference sessions to get some guidelines?
I commented a couple days ago:
Most abused session format
The panel. As both perp and victim of several panels this conference, I am convinced there need to be some guidelines. Too many talking heads pontificating ad hoc, ad nauseum, off-topic. There must be a better way. Ideas? I need to think more about this.
I may have been a little harsh here. I did enjoy the panels I saw and participated in. I just think they could have been so much better with a few little enforced rules. Anyway here's how my thinking goes so far...
10 Commandments of Panel Discussions
I. Thou shalt limit the session to a single question about a topic pertinent to the targeted attendees.
II. Thou shalt limit the number of panelists to not more than one per 15 minutes of presentation time allotted. For the math challenged, that means no more than four panelists per hour of session.
III. Thou shalt select panelists based on diversity of view, opinion and experience. Invite an outsider looking in, now and then.
IV. Thou shalt plan for at least one-half of allotted time for discussion based on attendee questions.It is a panel discussion, not sequential lectures, after all.
V. Thou shalt have a moderator who actually moderates - enforcing time limits and keeping panelists on topic. An electric cattle prod brandished now and then is advised.
VI. Thou shalt stay on topic. Period.
VII. Unless given a longer time to make opening remarks, thou shalt limit thy responses to less than three minutes per response. Wear a damn watch.
VIII. Thou shalt show the participants and fellow panelists respect by speaking directly to the question.
IX. Thou shalt not talk again until each panelist has replied. Heated back-and-forth dialogs are the exception.
X. Thou shalt understand and keep holy the right to remain silent on topics about which thou knows diddly-squat. As Honest Abe once said, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”
OK, folks, add your own!
Ric Murray offered in a comment what I believe is an outstanding alternative to panel discussions:
I have an idea for a different approach to panels that I would like to see... The TED Talk format of giving people 15 minutes to "do their thing." It could be scheduled (but yuck). My idea would be for presenters to sign up before the conference (as they do if the want to present a "real" session). The difference would be, first-come-first-served would fill the schedule. A room could be set aside for the length of the conference. This also might meet your 10 minutes or walk criteria.
I keep reading Tweets, blogs, and getting the impression that many attendees learn more from the hallway conversations. This would be like bringing the hallway into a room. You might even find great speakers who aren't the "big names." How democratic, huh?
Cool, huh? I am forwarding this to the ISTE Powers-That-Be.