The Ultimate Guide To Hosting A Successful Panel Discussion

Posted by: BeaconLive

A successful virtual event needs to seamlessly incorporate audio and visual components for a final presentation that builds sustainable brand exposure, recognition, and loyalty. Panel discussions are usually the highlight of any virtual event because it brings together experts in a specific field that attendees want to learn from. 


While presenters are the most important pieces of a great virtual event panel discussion, you also need to provide technology to support the message and help attendees engage with the content. PowerPoints, graphics, Q&A sessions, images, and live virtual panel discussions are just some of the pieces to host a virtual event.


What Makes A Great Discussion Panel At A Virtual Event?

Virtual panel discussions deliver extensive audience influence and session value, making them a valuable part of any virtual event. You can invite experts in your industry to discuss important topics, and your attendees can learn and interact with presenters along the way. This is a great way to build hype for your event and deliver amazing information to your attendees. 


However, just the thought of planning an outline, coordinating schedules, and lining up the technology needed for a virtual panel discussion is enough to overwhelm even the most seasoned event planners. This is why we put together a few items to consider as you host a panel discussion for your next virtual event. 


Take a look at this ultimate guide to hosting a successful panel discussion online and have your virtual discussion planned in no time! 



1. Determine Your Panel Objectives 

A panel discussion is an important part of your virtual event’s agenda. Panels offer a wealth of opportunities for education, engagement, and event interest. It should never be used as a time filler, last-minute option, or done because it is expected.


Think carefully about your goals for the panel discussion and how it contributes to the day’s agenda. A successful panel needs a dedicated amount of time to account for unplanned discussions, key takeaways, and audience question-and-answer sessions. 



2. Choose The Best Moderator/MC

The moderator is the single most important factor in the success of your panel discussion because they control the flow of information and help steer the conversation to keep attendees engaged and interested. When moderating a panel discussion, the MC’s job is to create the right chemistry to meet the needs of the panel and set the ground rules while keeping the panel on topic and on time. 


Consider the tone you want to achieve with your panel. You may want a firm facilitator to keep everyone in line or a moderator with a journalistic flair to ask probing questions. Or maybe you are looking for someone who is witty and can crack jokes to engage the audience. 


Ask your Virtual Event platform provider if they would provide a professional moderator to host your panel discussion. Some tech providers, like BeaconLive, will make sure every event runs as smooth as possible with the help of trained professionals to host your virtual gatherings. 


Virtual Event Presenter Best Practices

3. Pick The Most Engaging Panelists 

Once you have decided on the right moderator, begin curating your panel. Gather people who are knowledgeable on the panel topic and ability to work with the crowd and panel members:

  • Level Of Expertise: Make sure one of your panelists is a recognized authority in the industry who can establish credibility with the audience. 
  • Diversity: Make sure your panel represents the demographic of your audience and offers different perspectives to encourage interesting discussion. 
  • Preparation: Panelist preparation is the difference between a boring panel and an amazing one. Panel members must be willing to volunteer key points and concrete examples. 
  • Communication Skills: Panelists should be natural conversationalists. They should be comfortable with public speaking and appear at ease with discussion. 


Once you’ve found your dream team, arrange a conference call with all panel members and the panel moderator. 


Test the panel platform, let the fellow panelists get to know each other, and allow the moderator to share the questions they plan on asking. While it’s best not to over-prepare your panelists, having an idea of what topics will be discussed helps keep the conversation fluid. 


Concerned about what to do if your panelists don't show up? Read for some de-escalation tips in your last minute time crunch to execute a perfect and professional event regardless of the circumstances. 


4. Secure The Best Tech Platform

Because your panel discussion will be streamed virtually to your audience, it’s important to use a platform with the capabilities to support both the audience and the stakeholders behind the scenes. 


Choose a virtual event platform that is intuitive to use for you and event attendees. Learn the platform capabilities and figure out which are most beneficial to your event. If your audience is new to virtual panels or webinars/webcasts, keep it simple and provide easy access. 


Your chosen virtual event platform should include all of the following components to ensure a successful panel discussion: 


  • Fully Managed Platform With Dedicated Event Staff
  • Virtual Event Accessibility
  • Listener Counts 
  • Public Or Private Chat
  • Phone Dial-In Access 
  • Event Lobby 
  • Live Polling 
  • Accessible Event Controls 
  • Live Tech Support For Event Planner And Audience Members


While it is possible to use multiple platforms to market, prepare, and execute your virtual panel discussion, it’s best to trust one company to keep all components of your event in one place and streamline access. 


5. Make Your Final Panel Discussion Preparations 

Once all the pieces of your virtual panel discussion are in place, it’s time to make final preparations. These steps will allow you to troubleshoot potential problems and properly prepare your moderator and panelists. 


Plan Introductions And Timings 

Meet with your moderator individually to work out panelist introductions and discussion pacing. Decide if panelists will introduce themselves in 30-second intervals or if the moderator will handle that. 


Make sure your moderator is prepared with panel questions and knows which panelists should initially answer which questions. Provide your MC with guidance on how to pace the discussion and discreetly signal panelists who are out of time. 


Do A Run-Through With Panelists 

 Arrange a meeting with all panel participants. If streaming live from a venue, make sure all lighting, microphones, and furniture work with the panel aesthetic.


Since panelists are streaming from individual locations, ensure their background and lighting are not distracting and that their technology functions properly within the platform. Panelists should have headphones and mics to ensure the best audio quality.


Organize Audience Question-And-Answer Session

In-person events typically require microphone movement around a venue. With a virtual panel discussion, you’ll need to plan on which method you will utilize for audience member questions. 


Utilize a live private chat function within your event platform to allow live audience members to send questions discreetly. This allows you and the moderator to screen questions and pose the ones you feel add to the discussion. 


Virtual Event Platform Comparison


The Dos And Don’t Of A Great Panel Discussion

On the day of your virtual panel discussion, be prepared to troubleshoot and step in where needed, just like during an in-person event. Take a look at the dos and don’ts of a successful panel. 



  • Have panelists log in 30 minutes ahead of time to warm up. 
  • Keep an eye on analytics, and listener counts. 
  • Monitor audience engagement. 
  • Provide one sheeter of key takeaways. 
  • Wrap it up neatly. 
  • Skip sound/technology check 
  • Include PowerPoints during the discussion- they are distracting. 
  • Skimp on Q&A time. Allow for at least 15 minutes of audience participation
  • Ban follow-up questions- they often lead to riveting discussion. 
  • Go over your scheduled time. 


Once the discussion is underway, take notes on what works and what doesn’t. This allows event planners to make informed decisions going forward. 


Host A Successful Panel Discussion Today!

Panel discussions have stood the test of time. Now it’s your turn to pull them from the dark ages and host a virtual panel discussion using the most cutting-edge virtual event platform available. 


This guide will help you to make your panel discussion the highlight of your event agenda. You will draw in attendees, engage them, and make a huge impact on the success of your next virtual or hybrid event. 

What is the main purpose of a panel discussion?

The purpose of a panel discussion is to inspire conversation between a group of industry leaders so that the audience can learn from their interaction and discussion.

Should I incorporate polling into my virtual discussion panel?

Yes, polling during virtual events increases audience engagement and participation.

How do you promote a virtual panel discussion?

Use social media, send targeted email invitations, and include a link on your event app to promote the virtual panel discussion.