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News & Press: Annual Conference

Panel Presentation Primer

Monday, November 19, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Carrie Snow
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So you want to present a panel at UMA.  Wonderful, we are happy to have your support! Here are some ways you can convey your information.  As you would imagine there are several formats and matching those formats to your content makes a difference.  

Option 1: Lecture style (a.k.a. The Park and Bark)
This is one where after a brief introduction your panelist presents their content one at a time. Questions are held to the very end. Lecture style works if you're presenting a lot of case studies or introducing new concepts. Unfortunately, this can be the least engaging for your audience. Doing this first thing in the morning or right after a heavy lunch is the kiss of death. Also if your speakers are not engaging or energetic, your audience may tune our your message.

Option 2: Moderated discussion (a.k.a. Survey Says)   
Here your moderator has some questions to which all of your panelists will respond. You have met as a group before to go over the questions so they can prepare their responses. Moderated discussion works best if your panelists have differing perspectives or approaches to the same problem. It’s not the best place to introduce complex topics or theories. For example: If you are explaining the implications of elfish ecology in Mordor, this will not work well because you would have to explain to those living under a rock where Mordor is, rehash several large volumes of text for background not to mention the difference between Elrond, Glorfindel, and Thranduil.

Option 3: Participatory panel (a.k.a.  Here’s the Plan)
A moderator or panelist can give some brief background to the subject or introduce a problem. The panelist then discusses how they have tackled the problem and principles they found helpful. Attendees may talk, ask questions, or offer their experience during the discussion. What is important is that attendees leave with resources; a series of handouts, book recommendations, terminology to use back at their base. They should leave feeling that they can handle the problem or issue ahead. Participatory panel approach doesn’t work if the panelists haven’t strategized ahead for what they will be covering.

Option 4: Learning while doing (a.k.a. Mr. Miyagi)
In this scenario you will slowly walk attendees through a concept by having them do it in real time. You can complete the activity part upfront or break it up as you move on. As your session progresses, you may stop to have participants talk about their experiences and to impart key points about concepts you are trying to teach. Your speakers should be good at regulating the time and getting people to move. However, know your audience, if you have a group of introverts or people slow to engage this may not be the format for you. Also if you have a complicated process or need more than 1 hour, a workshop may be more appropriate.

These are just four main options for a session.   You can always create a hybrid or invent (and nickname)  your approach. The important part is that your presenters decide on a method and stick to it, playing it by ear is not an option.   You should meet in person, over the phone, or via skype/facetime before you present. Not meeting until the day of your session is a BAD idea, panelists need to make sure they are not speaking over each other or giving presentations that have nothing to do with one another.  Meeting in advance accomplishes another goal, you build relationships with your colleagues and who doesn’t love knowing someone who loves Utah Museums.


Contributed by Carrie Snow, UMA's Vice President of Professional Development and Collections Care Manager at the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City.

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