With so many panels going on at the same time, it can be difficult to figure out which one to attend. This had me wondering, how do you know if a panel is going to be any good going into it and how do you know if it was a success when it’s done? I polled some attendees at the conference to gain some insights and find out what they hoped to get from the presentations.
Jason Womack, an executive coach focusing on workplace performance, set the scene, “The title draws you in and you find a seat on the end, just in case.”
Then what? The first person I thought to ask was Steve Rosenbaum, Founder and CEO of Magnify.net and author of Curation Nation. A good panel or presentation is a kind of curation: choose the best information on the subject, add your perspective and present it in your own unique way. Who better to ask than someone who just published a book on content creation?
Rosenbaum said a panelist should not pitch his company, because it’s disrespectful to the audience. Panelists are “obligated to share something meaningful.” Basically, a good panelist brings new ideas.
Samsung-sponsored panel "Asleep in the Classroom: A Wake Up Call from Tomorrow". Photo by Ken Yeung.
As for the moderator, Rosenbaum said that people ask him to do it and he says no. “A moderator has a responsibility to not want to participate (in the conversation), but move it forward.” Womack expanded on the role of the moderator as one who is, “ready to ask the next level of question... and read the audience.”
Rosenbaum said an example of a good presentation comes from the Seth Godin school of thought. It might be something with images or words, new information. He cautions that it should not be “anything that feels like homework.” Good advice. No one wants to look at someone else’s homework assignment.
Colleen Newvine has a panel today called "Secrets of Fake Twitter Accounts Revealed (maybe)," so I asked her what she’s noticed and planned to incorporate in her panel. “It’s important to have an informed conversation and manage the back channel,” said Newvine. “Keep an eye out on what people are saying on Twitter during the panel so that it’s a dialogue throughout.” On the flip side, she thinks an ineffective panel is one that is “excruciatingly obvious and vague without advancing the dialogue.”
Attendee Tony Pino encourages panelists to be storytellers—make them delighted to be part of the process. He quoted Richard Saul Wurman, founder of TED, who said, “You’re all stupid,” and went on to explain that it’s an utter joy to really not know—it’s the best starting point.
Attendee William Rice wants a panel that inspires conversation afterward, something he can’t read in a blog. Attendee Rachel Weiss doesn’t want to be sold anything, “Selling should happen at the trade show booth.”
My business partners Stacie Capone and Don Downie of Small Media Extra Large have a panel today called, "The Moguls of Food Porn,” and they agreed that the best panel is a conversation with the audience. “Nobody is here to attend a lecture or a sales pitch,” said Downie. “Create a real(ish) conversation, first amongst the panelists and then between us and the audience.”
Capone agreed, “I think the panels where people talk at you are boring. The ones where the audience is included and taken in are always the most fun.”
At least, that’s what they are hoping to do at their panel this afternoon.
To learn more about the panels and presentations at the conference, visit the Samsung SXSWi Hub.
The views and opinions expressed herein, are my own and do not necessarily represent the views of Samsung USA, Samsung Electronics America INC or any of the parents/affiliates as well as any other individual employee thereof. A stipend was provided to me by Samsung to cover costs associated with this event.
Meghan Scibona is a writer, director, producer and content developer who has produced numerous short films, promos and short documentaries. She most recently added the feature film, Blood Junkies, to her producer/director credits. Meghan has spoken on panels about filmmaking at SXSW and is a partner in Small Media Extra Large, a creative content and digital video production company and interactive studio.