2014 Panel Report: 63% of Panels are Mediocre or Worse


Posted on 27th March 2014 by Kristin Arnold in Uncategorized

We're in Times Square!

We’re in Times Square!

It’s finally here!

In the largest survey ever conducted about panel discussions, 539 executives, thought leaders and meeting planners shared their frustrations about the panel format.  “The Panel Report: A 2014 Snapshot on the Effectiveness of Panel Discussions at Meetings, Conferences and Conventions,” looks at the effectiveness of the format, the moderator and panelists – what drives the audience crazy – as well as recommendations to enhance the panel session.

Download the report at no charge at http://PowerfulPanels.com/report/.

Download Your Report Now

Download Your Report Now

Some of the key findings include:

  • Panels are Pervasive.  The panel format is widely used at meetings.  99% of respondents have seen a panel format during a meeting in the past 12 months. 
  • Panels are a Lazy Format.  The panel format is considered to be a relatively easy format to produce: the meeting planner picks the topic, finds a moderator, selects the panelists and then moves on to more important aspects of the meeting.  Unfortunately, the audience sees this lack of attention and doesn’t enter into the panel space with high hopes.
  • Format Needs to Be Updated.  The traditional, boring panel format needs to be reinvigorated to engage and entertain today’s audiences.
  • Skilled Facilitation is Key to Panel Success.  There is a high degree of correlation between the effectiveness of the moderator and the effectiveness of the panel in achieving the outcomes.  Having a skilled facilitator as the moderator is your best insurance policy to creating a successful panel session.
  • Moderators Bring Out the Best in Panelists.  The biggest “pet peeve” is having a poor moderator with out of control panelists following close behind.  This makes perfect sense; when you have a skilled moderator, then the panelists will be less likely to get out of control.  Yet when you have a lousy moderator, even brilliant panelists can get out of control or miss the mark.

“When you choose to have a panel format, be deliberate and intentional in your choices,” says QPC Inc. President, Kristin Arnold.  “Choose an intriguing topic, pick a skilled moderator, select interesting and articulate panelists, create a lively format, and engage your audience early and often.”

Watch the video of these findings first presented at the FRESH14 Conference in Copenhagen or view the slideshow presentation.

View the press release here

Moderator: Ten Common Mistakes Moderators Make and How to Avoid Them


Posted on 3rd November 2013 by Kristin Arnold in Uncategorized

I’m so excited for my upcoming webinar this Thursday, November 7th on the ten common mistakes panel moderators make and how to avoid them.  It’s based on a survey of executives, managers and meeting professionals (which is still open BTW at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/G7ZSPBZ).  The preliminary findings are that over 50% indicated that the panel discussion format was merely “okay”.  And those odds are just not acceptable to me.  In my humble opinion, ALL panel discussions should be amazingly powerful, delivering on the promise to the audience so they get real value and applicable take-aways.

In this 45 minute webinar, I will share the top ten mistakes that moderators make when facilitating a panel discussion…as well as what to do about them. Learn tips and best practices from the pros so that the next time you moderate or participate as panelist on a panel discussion, you’ll hit it out of the park!

The complimentary webinar is set for this Thursday, November 7th at 9AM PT. And if you can’t make it, not to worry! Register now and you’ll receive a link to the recorded presentation.

You can register at www.ExtraordinaryTeam.com/webinar-series/ - and I hope to “see you” at the webinar!

Feel the Fear and Speak Anyway!


Posted on 16th September 2013 by Kristin Arnold in Uncategorized

Guest Post from Alan Stevens

OK, you have taken great care to prepare your speech, and the big day has arrived. You stand up, face your audience, and remove your notes from your pocket. For the next fifteen minutes, you read your carefully-crafted words of wisdom, not looking up for fear of losing your place. As you finish, you do finally look up, and receive a polite smattering of applause from those still in attendance. You breathe a sigh of relief. A success? Well, er…no. They’re being polite. The biggest gap between reading and speaking is called fear. It causes people who are normally quite capable of speaking their minds to get the jitters and the shakes when called to the podium. The root of this fear is the human need to be accepted. Put differently, we’re afraid of making fools of ourselves.

When you make a speech, people want you to talk to them. They haven’t come to see you read, otherwise you might just as well have made copies of your script, and handed it out for people to read at their leisure. To become an exceptional speaker, you’ll need to understand the root of fear in speakers. This will mean that when it’s your turn to stand and deliver, you’re ready to look up, speak up and make a difference. Here are a few tips on overcoming the fear of speaking:

  1. If you’d like to conquer the fear of speaking to an audience you need to understand the source of this fear, specifically where it relates to you.
  2. Nervousness is natural – and it can also be dealt with.
  3.  A good technique is to find a friendly face in your audience and imagine you’re speaking just to that person.
  4. It is just as easy to speak to a large audience as it is to a small one. There is no difference. An audience is an audience.
  5. People who occupy high positions are just as human as the rest of us and therefore do not need to be feared more than anyone else.
  6. Channel your excess energy towards the centre of your body – specifically your diaphragm. This will help you with voice control, keep you calmer and remove the fidgeting from your fingers and toes.
  7. Speaking from notes will help you to keep track of your order. Use cue cards rather than an A4 notepad.

These tips, and hundreds of others are from a brand new book called “The Exceptional Speaker” by Alan Stevens and Paul du Toit – two of my international speaking colleagues. It is the definitive book on speaking, and is now available from Amazon in Kindle and hardback format, as well as from exceptionalspeaker.com as a PDF.

What is Panel, Anyway?


Posted on 3rd September 2013 by Kristin Arnold in Uncategorized

A few months ago, I was facilitating a breakout session to a two-day national conference that started the event with a panel discussion.  It was an interesting choice as most conferences start with something sizzling, dazzling, entertaining and well as impactful.  Each of the panelists were indeed interesting; however put together on the same stage, facilitate by a mediocre moderator, it was not as scintillating as the conference organizers had hoped.

And that’s a darn shame.  It didn’t have to be that way…

Which got me thinking about the panel discussion format.  What it is; what it isn’t.  How to moderate a lively and informative panel discussion.  How to BE a great panelist.  How to engage the audience beyond just a Q&A format.

And I also wanted data.  Sure, I have an opinion about panels, but I also wanted to reach out to the world (that would be you!) and find out what YOU think of panels.  So, please take a few minutes (that’s all it will take, I promise!) and complete this short survey.  When you finish the survey, you’ll be redirected to download a Panelist Do’s and Don’ts Cheat Sheet – quite handy if you are ever asked to be on a panel or moderate a panel!

I also started a LinkedIn group, put together a short 7-part free video e-course and wrote a soon-to-be-released ebook, Powerful Panels: A Step-By-Step Guide to Moderating Lively & Informative Panel Discussions at Meetings, Conferences & Conventions.  My long-term intent is to provide a definitive website for all things you need to know about the panel format.

Because I think ALL panel discussions should be powerful, scintillating, lively and informative.

So when I am talking about the “panel discussion format” let’s be clear about what that format is….and what it is NOT:

A panel discussion is a specific format used in a meeting, conference or convention.  It is a live or virtual discussion about a specific topic amongst a selected group of panelists who share differing perspectives in front of a larger audience.

The panel is typically facilitated by a “moderator” who guides the panel and the audience through the event.

The panel, typically 3-4 experts or practitioners in the field, shares facts, offers opinions and responds to audience questions either through questions curated by the moderator or taken from the audience directly.

The panel session typically lasts for 60-90 minutes.

A panel discussion is NOT:

  • A set of presentations, one after another.  The panel format allows for a brief introduction and then discussion among the panelists and audience.  If the majority of the panel agenda is centered around presenting information, then just give each panelist a speaking slot with a Q&A after each speaker.
  • A one-on-one interview with each panelist.  Many untrained moderators simply ask questions of each panelist, one after another, rather than build the dialogue into a conversation.  Unless there is interplay between the panelists, have an “up close and personal” interview with each speaker.
  • Just Q&A from the audience.  When the focus is completely on answering the audience’s questions, then you have a forum or “town hall” meeting.
  • A roundtable discussion which is not moderated.

Not that any of these formats are bad; they are different than and an alternative to a panel discussion.  Just call it like you see it, be it a panel, presentation, interview or forum.

Use a panel when you believe the group of panelists will generate something more interesting than any one individual panel member could generate on his/her own.

Spring Newsletter is Hitting the Streets!


Posted on 16th April 2013 by Kristin Arnold in Uncategorized

The Extraordinary Team Newsletter

The Spring Extraordinary Team newsletter has just hit the streets!  Updated format (no longer a html – we have gone back to pdf, and you can access it in full color or grayscale/black & white.

This quarter, we have featured:

  • Team Manifesto
  • Management as a Calling
  • May 9th Webinar on the 5 Secrets Every Team Leader Can Do to Get the Most Out of Their Meeetings
  • Practical Team Activities: Simple Starter Questions?
  • From the Bookshelf:  Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life
  • What Were You Thinking?
  • Quote of the Quarter: Harold Geneen
  • What’s New at QPC Inc.

Enjoy the newsletter and feel free to forward it on to your team mates – and don’t forget to sign up for the complimentary webinar on May 9th about how to get the most out of your team meetings.


What Makes You Unique?


Posted on 26th March 2013 by Kristin Arnold in Uncategorized

Last week, I attended the ISA-Association of Learning Providers’ Annual Business Retreat where we heard Jeanne Bliss speak about customer loyalty. About a minute into her speech, she laughed….and then snorted.  Yes, like a pig!  She continued to laugh and explained that she’s from the midwest and somehow learned how to laugh with the pigs.  She then warned us that when she laughs, she snorts from time to time.  Sure enough, she snorted several times during her presentation.

Initially, I was a little caught off guard.  Really?  A woman who snorts?  Thankful that she had provided some kind of disclaimer, her speech was well crafted and kept me engaged with stories, examples, and activities that demonstrated key concepts from her book, I Love You More Than My Dog: Five Decisions That Drive Extreme Customer Loyalty in Good Times and Bad.  So an occasional snort here and there just made me giggle (on the inside).

A few days ago, a coaching client asked me about vocalized pauses (ums, likes, you know) and whether I could teach people to stop saying them.  My answer?  Yes, people can be taught to minimize vocalized pauses, but usually there are bigger fish to fry in the coaching relationship – unless those ticks are really annoying.

Which made me think of Jeanne.  Were her snorts a vocalization that needed to be minimized?  Or were they uniquely different to Jeanne?  The fact that I have thought about her presentation and talked about it to at least five people in the last week makes me think otherwise.  Her snorts are sticky.  They are unusual and therefore memorable.

Whatever makes you unique, don’t try to hide it because no one else does that…or that’s not what “good” presenters do.  Be yourself when giving a presentation.  Show your passion.  Be genuine and authentic.  Be YOU.  You and your presentation will be much more memorable.

Should You Use Profanity in a Presentation?


Posted on 21st February 2013 by Kristin Arnold in Uncategorized

While attending a conference last week, I was struck by the contrast of the use of profanity on the platform.  One speaker used a mildly profane word and then apologized by telling us that he had to give ten bucks to his son for the infraction.

The other speaker said a similar profane word which escalated into a crescendo of f-bombs.

I am not a prude and I have been known to utter a few profane words onstage myself.   But is all that profanity really necessary? From my perspective, I think it depends on three factors:

  1. Location.  If you give a presentation in a conservative church, even mild profanity would not be appropriate.  However, if you give a speech at a evening comedy club, then chances are it would be.  Although, I think some comics use profanity just to get a laugh whereas it takes real work to make comedy work without resorting to throw-away cuss words.
  2. Style.  If you normally swear like a sailor (I can say that because I used to be one!), then it might be appropriate to be completely authentic to who you are and the message that you are bring to the audience.  Gary Vanyerchuck is renowned for his intensely profane style because that is who he is on and off the stage.  It works for him because he is expressive and passionate about his message.
  3. Audience.  Just because you like to flip the f-bomb occasionally doesn’t mean you should.  Gauge your audience for their cultural capacity.  For example, audiences in the United States are much more puritanical than our Canadian neighbors.  Some company cultures use profanity on a routine basis whereas others might actually have a formal policy that prohibits the use of profanity.  You should be able to see and feel the audience’s reaction to your words – and then determine if you want to continue.

Before you use profanity on the platform, I suggest you take a moment to research your audience and the location.  If it contributes to the content of your message and won’t get in the way of your audiences being able to hear your message, well then, I say be true to your style and go for it!  That being said, when in doubt, leave it out.  Why take the risk of alienating your audience when the whole point of giving your speech is to inspire them to take action?

You can also take a hint from Gary V, who says in his speaker bio: “Please note, Gary frequently utilizes colorful language in his presentations. However, he is aware that this is not appropriate for all audiences and is more than capable of cleaning up his act upon request.”  Love this approach!

What are your thoughts about using profanity on the platform?

Team Manifesto


Posted on 4th February 2013 by Kristin Arnold in Uncategorized

manifesto_frontGood ideas jump out at you and then they take a while to simmer before you take action.  And so it was with an Inc. magazine article about the Holstee Manifesto – a mission statement about the company’s core purpose and core values.

I thought this was a really cool idea and so it simmered on the shelf for a while.  I took a look at some other examples and decided to put together my own teamwork manifesto of simple ideas and ground rules for extraordinary team work.

Hope you like it!



20 Year Anniversary


Posted on 10th October 2012 by Kristin Arnold in Uncategorized

Yes, you read that right.  Quality Process Consultants, Inc. (dba Extraordinary Team) has been in business for 20 years as of the end of September – so we are going to be celebrating ALL YEAR!  What a milestone (and frankly, who would have thought I would survive, no less thrive in this business?)

It all started when I was in the US Coast Guard as the Training Manager for the Mid-Atlantic region in 1990.  The Coast Guard started doing “TQM” – Total Quality Management – and needed to train up the first set of facilitators.  They looked at the facilitator job description and said, “that seems a lot like how Kristin operates” and so they sent me to two weeks of training.  Unfortunately, it was to teach us how to teach others in TQM principles and tools.

When I got assigned to my very first team, I made just about every mistake one could!  I kid you not: 26 one-hour long meetings.  I don’t even remember what the problem was, nor the solution (we did, in fact, reach a decent, benign solution).  I just remember being soooo frustrated.  None of us knew what we were doing.  We were just trying to get some of these quality management principles off the ground.

Frustrated, I avidly researched this nascent skill called “facilitation” and found myself training a cadre of internal facilitators within the Coast Guard.  By the end of 1992, companies were asking me to teach their people how to facilitate and lead teams! In fact, I still use the core of that initial facilitation skills training program in my company today!

At that point, I decided to pursue the path that I love (facilitation) and move from the active duty Coast Guard to the Reserves in 1993.  I served another 10 years in a reserve capacity (one weekend a month and two weeks a year) and thankfully never got called up for deployment.  (Anyone need a facilitator to secure a Middle Eastern port?).

Good news is that I love what I do.  I work with great people who are dedicated to achieving extraordinary results.  The work is never the same; it is always different.  I learn more about the world as I travel about and work with different business models and areas of interest.  What’s not to like about this business?

Looking back, it has been an interesting ride starting out of the upstairs guest room, taking over the dining room and then the living room.  In 1997, I bought a small bank building that was literally moved down the street into the heart of downtown Hampton.  I renovated the bank into a multimedia learning center with executive office suites.  I’ve grown the business to have four full-time people onboard with several other facilitators on call.  I’ve also “rightsized” the business after I moved up to Washington DC shortly after 9/11.  At this point, I started to hire talent for a performance period vs. hire employees.  Seems to work better for my business model these days. In 2008, I moved out to Scottsdale, AZ where the weather and lifestyle is much more aligned with my personal preferences.

I consider this to be “hump year” actually – a mid-way point to take stock of what I have done and what I intend to do.  That’s what I am doing ALL YEAR – Celebrating success and strategizing for the future.  I’m thinking I’ll be doing another 20 years!

Top Ten Meeting Mistakes


Posted on 9th July 2012 by Kristin Arnold in Uncategorized

I was rummaging through my files yesterday and ran across this brilliant list of blunders many executives make when planning their annual corporate event.  Taken from the book, Never By Chance, Joe Calloway, Chuck Feltz and Kris Young  share their “top ten mistakes”:

  1. Have a meeting just because you “always have a meeting.”
  2. Go into the meeting without stated objectives and clearly defined outcome.
  3. Put more focus on what the executives want to say than what the audience needs to hear.
  4. Overload the schedule wihtout giving participants time to network, process, and just catch their breath.
  5. Focus on only one mode of communicating (i.e. a podium parade of talking heads), as opposed to looking at multiple ways to communicate with and engage the audience.
  6. Poor coordination and communication between/among speakers, resulting in conflicting messages or unnecessary repetition.
  7. Make no provision for building on the meeting’s objectives and goals after the event.
  8. Structure the event so that the audience is completely passive, not allowing them to interact and affect the meeting and its content.
  9. Not updating the meeting’s structure to reflect changes in the company, the audience, or the culture at large.
  10. Not utilizing a production company that understands how to help you design and produce an effective, strategic event and make the most of your investment.

Clearly, events that lack purpose and focus are an incredible waste of time.  When planning your annual meeting, it should align with and further the company’s strategy.  In fact, every single person on the planning team should be able to ask the question: “What’s the point?”  Include them in the strategy and communication planning discussions from the beginning vs. on a “need to know” basis.

Kris Young says, “When working with a focused team like this, creative ideas flow and are on target, and conversations don’t go in circles.  Every idea is clearly focused on one specific goal.  Every decision is aligned to a specific outcome.  Planned messages are clear, and every part of the event is aligned to these messages.  All elements – such as executive presentations, videos, outside speakers, set designs, presentation graphics, the look of the room, even entertainment options – are meant to create an experience that will deliver the company’s intended result.  Working as part of a team like this and producing a truly successful event is incredibly satisfying and fulfilling work.”

Gosh, wouldn’t it be great if all corporate meetings were truly successful, incredibly satisfying and fulfilling?  What would have to happen to make it so?