Virtual Panel Discussions: Planning, Moderating & Following Up

Are you tired of countless online meetings that leave you feeling trapped in a never-ending cycle of virtual boredom? 

Not to worry, virtual panel discussions are here to save the day!

They not only give a refreshing change from the monotony of online meetings, but they also provide a space for stimulating discussions from a variety of viewpoints.

And, let’s be honest, who doesn’t like a nice panel discussion with some clever banter? 

We’ll walk you through the stages of hosting a successful virtual panel discussion that will keep your audience interested and excited in this post.

Preparing for a Virtual Panel Discussion

There are a few crucial things to remember when preparing for a virtual panel discussion. Make some notes, conduct some research, and prepare some thoughtful questions for the other panelists.

With these preparations in place, you’ll be well-equipped to participate in a successful virtual panel discussion.

Choose a Virtual Event Platform

When it comes to hosting virtual panel discussions or other types of online events, choosing the right virtual platform is crucial. You want to be sure that the platform you choose is user-friendly and has all of the features you need to make your virtual panel a success.

BigMarker, Livestorm, and Zoho Meeting are among prominent virtual event platforms. Screen sharing, virtual backgrounds, and the capacity to host a large number of virtual participants are all available on these platforms.

If you’re planning a hybrid event with both in-person and virtual attendees, you may want to consider a platform like Hopin or EventMobi. These platforms offer a range of interactive features like live polling, Q&A sessions, and breakout rooms that can help engage both virtual and in-person attendees.

Live webinar speaker question and answer
Live webinar speaker question and answer

Before selecting a virtual meeting platform, it’s important to do your research, read reviews, and test out different options to find the one that works best for your specific needs.

Select Panelists

Selecting the right panelists is key to hosting a successful panel discussion. When considering potential panelists, think about who would bring diverse and interesting perspectives to the discussion.

You want panelists who can offer unique insights and engage in thoughtful dialogue with fellow panelists and the audience. If you’re planning an in-person event or a hybrid panel, consider inviting keynote speakers or individuals who can offer insightful closing remarks.

It’s also important to think about each potential panelist’s public speaking skills and their ability to communicate effectively. Once you’ve identified potential panelists, reach out to them ahead of time to gauge their interest and availability. Don’t forget to discuss the overall goals of the panel discussion and what you hope to accomplish.

panel discussion webinar
Panel discussion webinar

With the right mix of panelists and careful planning, your panel discussion is sure to be a hit.

Create an Agenda

A well-planned agenda is essential for having a successful panel discussion. Start by deciding on a panel topic and discussion topic, and then come up with thought-provoking questions that will stimulate engaging and significant discussion among your panelists.

While creating your agenda, be sure to include a description of the panel’s goals and how you intend to achieve them. Most panel discussions begin with an introduction, followed by a quick overview of the panel topic and a summary of each panelist’s history and experience.

Consider dividing up the conversation into smaller chunks with allocated time periods for each speaker to speak to guarantee a smooth event flow. Provide time for audience questions as well as any concluding statements or future steps.

Agenda example
Agenda example

To make the work easier, you can utilize AI writing tools, which offers a lot of features to help write your agenda. With a well-crafted agenda in place, you’re sure to host a great panel discussion that engages and inspires your audience.

Host the Virtual Panel Discussion Event

Hosting a virtual panel discussion can be a great way to bring together experts in your field and engage your audience in meaningful conversation. By following these steps, you can create a well-planned and executed event that will keep your attendees interested and involved from start to finish.

Set Up the Virtual Space

Before your virtual panel discussion begins, it’s important to set up the virtual space to ensure that everything runs smoothly. Start by choosing a virtual event platform that is user-friendly and reliable, and make sure that all panelists and moderators have access to the platform ahead of time.

Test the platform to avoid any technical difficulties during the event. As the moderator, your job is to keep the discussion moving and ensure that everyone can be heard. Communication skills are key, especially when you’re working remotely and can’t rely on in-person cues.

Be sure to clearly communicate the virtual panel’s schedule, expectations, and any technical requirements to panelists and any live audience members.

gotowebinar webinar vs webcast
GoToWebinar setup: Webinar vs Webcast

With a little preparation, you can create a virtual space that replicates the energy and interaction of physical events and provides an engaging experience for all participants.

Moderate the Discussion

As the panel moderator, your role is to keep the discussion moving and ensure that it stays on topic. A good idea is to greet your virtual attendees and proceed with panelist introductions. 

Encourage panelists to share their perspectives and answer questions from the audience.

Consider incorporating audience participation by utilizing social media platforms or live polling to engage attendees and gather feedback. Remember to be an active listener and facilitate dialogue between panelists, but also be prepared to redirect the conversation if it begins to stray off-topic.

Your job is to keep the discussion engaging and informative for everyone involved, whether in-person or virtually. With a little preparation and a confident approach, you can ensure that your virtual panel discussion is a success.

Engage the Audience

Engaging the audience is crucial to the success of any virtual panel discussion. Encourage audience engagement by providing opportunities for questions and feedback throughout the discussion.

Utilize online tools such as chat rooms, social media platforms, and live polling to engage with your virtual audience and make them feel involved. By creating an interactive environment, you can ensure that your virtual panel discussion reaches a wider, more diverse audience than an in-person event.

Keep in mind that a large audience can also be challenging, so be sure to manage the flow of questions and comments effectively to keep the discussion on track. Include panel moderators in case you want to solely focus on delivering and presenting the key points. 

The moderator’s job is to take audience questions and make sure different perspectives are heard.

Host moderating the chat room
Host moderating the chat room

With a little planning and creativity, you can get your audience engaged in a meaningful discussion lead by the panelists. Engaging and interesting discussion where different perspectives are heard should be one of the main virtual panel objectives.

Post-Panel Discussion Activities

Now that you have successfully hosted your virtual panel discussion, it’s time to engage in post-panel discussion activities that can help you build on the momentum of your event and leave a lasting impression on your audience.

Here are some activities that you can consider to maximize the impact of your virtual panel discussion.

Share the Recording

Sharing the recording of your virtual panel discussion is a great way to extend the reach of your successful event beyond both the audience and time frame of the original online event.

By recording your virtual panel discussion, you can share it with a wider audience and create a valuable resource for those who were unable to attend the live event. This can be especially helpful for those who are interested in the topic or for public speaking professionals looking to improve their skills.

Be sure to make the recording easily accessible and share it on social media platforms or other channels to maximize its impact.

Webinar follow-up email
Webinar follow-up email with the replay link

By sharing the recording of your virtual panel discussion, you can expand the reach of your message and create a lasting impact that will benefit both you and your audience.

Analyze the Feedback

Analyzing the feedback you receive after your virtual panel discussion is an important step in improving your future virtual events.

Gather feedback from your audience and panelists using online surveys or feedback forms, and use this feedback to identify areas of improvement for your virtual event. Look for trends in the feedback, such as technical issues or suggestions for how to improve the virtual platform you used.

Use this feedback to make changes and adjustments to your virtual event planning process, and consider implementing suggestions from your audience and panel members.

BigMarker feedback survey email example
Post-webinar feedback survey

By providing opportunities for feedback and using this feedback to improve future virtual panel discussions, you can create more engaging and successful events that leave a lasting impact on your audience.

Key Takeaways for Hosting Panel Discussions in Virtual Events

In summary, hosting successful virtual panel discussions requires careful planning, preparation, and execution. 

The vital step is to choose the right virtual meeting software that allows you to host live or hybrid virtual panels.

Key points to keep in mind include selecting the right panelists, creating a thought-provoking agenda, setting up a virtual space, moderating the discussion effectively, engaging your virtual audience, and analyzing feedback to continuously improve your events.

By using technology and communication skills to overcome barriers, virtual panel discussions can reach a wider audience and attract potential panelists who may not have been able to participate in person.

Ultimately, the success of your virtual panel discussion hinges on your ability to create a meaningful and engaging experience for both your panel members and your virtual audience.

To achieve the best results with webinars, we recommend using a professional webinar platform

23 best webinar platforms rated and compared

Picture of Erkki Muuga

Erkki Muuga

Erkki has over 10 years of experience as a software product manager and a proven track record in building and growing SaaS products. He has a keen eye for key differentiating factors and spotting truly valuable software features that enable business use cases.

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