Panels at a conference don’t work. At all

Why panels at a conference don’t work? Also, why even leaving lots of room for questions at a conference is not a good idea? Let’s find out.

At various conferences, I’ve seen panels. The idea seems fine, right? 5 people on the conference room, you can ask any question, you get multiple replies, it’s good, right? Err, no.

  • When there’s a single speaker, you can connect with him. There’s an intro, you know the conference will be, let’s say, 40 minutes long, you pay a lot of attention, you can connect things in your mind („at the beginning, the speaker said X, know the speaker says Y, hmm, that’s interesting” or „I can focus on ideas & thoughts, not on the mechanics of speaking – who speaks, who answers, where should I look”).
  • On the other hand, when there are a lot of speakers, and questions from the audience:
    • You don’t connect to the question (you hear it poorly, you barely see the person asking, and you have no reference to the person asking – who is he?).
    • Speakers switch quick from one to another, it’s hard to clearly know – „Hmm, X person is like this & that”.
    • It’s very hard to get insights, since you have to constantly remind yourself what A, B, C, D, E speaker says, trying to connect with what they previously said is hard, trying to remember new things and associate them with each speaker is hard, trying to focus on who speaks is also hard. The mechanics of just following the message, trying to create a puzzle, only these mechanics make the process so tiring, that it’s much harder to get new ideas.

On a different note – do I recommend asking questions at the end of a conference? So, there’s a 40 minute conference. Should there also be questions at the end?

  • My answer is – yes, but only 2 or 3. That’s it. Reasons:
    • Minus – It’s hard to connect with the person asking the question.
    • Minus -It’s hard to make connections in your head, since the question and the answer and not directly related to the topic of the conference.
    • Plus – You already know the speaker, you can connect, partially, for this reason, to his answers.
    • Plus – There may actually be some top questions, very important, crucial things to know. While there are no wrong questions, restricting questions to 2 or 3 may prove better for the attention span.

I told you before (La ce conferințe / training-uri / workshop-uri / seminarii din România să participi?) that I prefer to go to events where there’s a lot of involvement (workshops, then seminars, and only then conferences). But at a workshop you can get everyone involved, while at a conference this is much harder.

Now I think even trying to involve more people (with questions) is really not a good idea.

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