A print buyer panel is always a popular draw for any print industry event.
Printers in your audience, as well as other print buyers and industry suppliers, will all benefit. But you must build such a panel with purpose.
I’ve done panels for countless trade groups since 2005, and I’ve learned from my rookie mistakes. Now I want to share my eight best tips with you.
- Have a panel of three, maybe four, panelists – tops. Typically a panel discussion lasts 45 minutes to an hour, and a panel of four is the max you should have to allow everyone time to contribute. Consider having a back-up in case someone has to cancel.
- Engage a facilitator who’s qualified. Don’t underestimate the role and the value of a good moderator. (Just watch the current election debates if you don’t believe me.) The moderator should know the industry intimately, be assertive, know how to advance the line of questioning, and be astute enough to digress. This requires someone quick on her feet.
- Have a focus. There’s no way you can cover a broad range of issues in an hour with three or four panelists, so decide what the primary issue should be for your audience. Examples: How millennials view/work with the print industry today and what would influence them regarding print? How do print customers choose their printers and what qualities/services matter the most? How are marketers mixing print into their campaigns?
- Inform your panelists about the topics to be covered. Call each of them to go over the agenda, the event’s goal, the audience, and what’s expected of them. Make sure they’re OK with the overall plan and that they’re excited to participate. Get short bios and headshots to use in your event promotion.
- Choose panelists who like to talk – but not dominate. Not everyone is comfortable being on stage and speaking extemporaneously (same goes for webinars). So each panelist should have a suitable personality as well as the right amount of experience. And no one panelist should dominate the discussion. If you don’t know your panelists, you won’t know if this is a potential issue unless you do a dry run ahead of time. Regardless, the moderator is responsible for dealing with “over-talkers” during the live event.
- A little controversy ain’t a bad thing. Don’t try to get four people who you think will agree on every point and tell the audience what they think they want to hear. Live sessions are much more interesting when different viewpoints surface and panelists are frank.
- Diversity is preferred. Unless you have a reason to build a panel of print customers in a particular vertical, one that’s made up of professionals from different fields is a better event. Also, have both men and women on a panel. Bonus tip: mix up the age range.
- Share your questions with the panelists. Everyone should be prepared to discuss the same key issues. Solicit panelists’ input as well. In my vast experience, print buyers know what’s going on and can identify the hottest issues they face. Good communication is vital, with the panelists as well as the facilitator.
If you’ve done your work building a strong print buyer panel, everyone on that stage will be comfortable, well prepared, and excited to participate. The discussion will be lively and enlightening, and the audience will get more than their money’s worth.
(c) 2016 Margie Dana