Panel discussions: How can you engage your audience?

Event By Sparkup on July 22, 2019

All of us have participated in panel discussions. What do we often see? Speakers who monopolize the discussion to share their own experiences and ideas while the other participants wait impatiently for the session to finally end. 

However, panel discussions are a great way to interact with the audience. So how can you engage your participants during panel discussions?

Here are some tips! 

Focus on the audience

Remember: you have organized a panel discussion for the participants, not for the speakers. Therefore, it is important to focus on the expectations of the participants. 

In order to do this, try to learn more about your audience. For example, offer them to participate in a poll to find out their level of expertise in the subject of the discussion and understand their opinion about it. 

This is an excellent way to help the speakers adapt their discussion to the audience and to make it more relevant. 



Include questions from the audience

During panel discussions the speakers often get carried away and forget about the audience. There are only a couple of minutes at the end of the discussion when the participants have a chance to ask their questions. However, more often than not, by that time the audience has already stopped paying attention.

Don’t wait until the end of the discussion to engage your audience! 

Encourage interaction with the participants from the very beginning to spark the discussion and make the participants part of the conversation. 

If you use an interactive tool like Sparkup, it will allow the participants to ask questions by using their phones. Highlight these tools to encourage your audience to use them. 


Encourage everyone to ask questions

A lot of people dread speaking in public and openly asking questions. And those who do find the courage to speak up often spoil the discussion by asking imappropriate questions. 

To avoid such awkward situations, we recommend using an interactive tool that will give everybody a chance to speak up. That way even the shyest participant will be able to ask a question. As for the speakers, they can choose the most relevant questions and answer them to enrich the debate.

Engage your audience by organizing a poll

To capture your audience’s attention and to fully engage them in the discussion, ask them about their opinion and get their feedback in real time! For example, if a speaker is talking about an interesting experience that he or she had, you can ask the audience if they have had similar experiences. This is an excellent way to stimulate interaction with the audience! 

Split the panel discussion into several sections

Our ability to concentrte our attention is limited to 20 minutes. Therefore, keeping your audience’s attention for 40 or 60 minutes is a very difficult challenge. 

In order to keep the participants paying attention, it could be useful to split the panel discussion into several sections. The idea is quite simple: you should break your discussion up into segments to keep up the debate. At the end of each segment you can ask for feedback from the audience by launching a poll. 



Panel discussions are an inherent part of conferences. Do not underestimate their efficiency. If you turn them into interactive discussions, you will be able to make the most of your audience’s collective intelligence

If you would like to use these tips to boost interaction during your panel discussions, sign up for a free Sparkup trial! 

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