“Flip the Panel” to engage the audience

You’ve heard of “flipping the classroom”??  Well, think about applying that to designing an educational program with a panel of speakers! I had invited 3 panelists to speak on “Changing a System or a Culture” for the Boston Facilitators Roundtable (BFR). When I considered my experience listening to panels, I realized that quite often, after 15 minutes or so I lose interest – i.e. the speakers seem to be repeating what the previous speakers said and I don’t feel engaged. Also, BFR members, and adult learners in general, come with a lot of experience that they want to share with colleagues, so it’s equally important to draw them out and give them a chance to discuss their own experiences.

So, I flipped the panel! I asked participants to discuss their experience and challenges in “changing a system or a culture” in small groups, and had each panelist sit with a small group. After that, I solicited 1-2 key challenges from each group, and captured them on the board; that provided direction to the speakers about what we wanted to hear from them. Then each panelist spoke, and managed to address most of the challenges. We allowed 5 minutes for Q&A after each one. Subsequently, people went back to the small groups, to discuss how they would apply what they heard from the panelists in their own situations. Then we went back to the panelists for one last round of questions. Here’s what two participants gave as feedback:

Brilliant organization of panel- time allotment and breaking into small groups was critical for processing information in a deeper way so that it was well integrated by the end of the event.

Appreciated the small group/lecture format very much.

So, next time you plan a panel, flip it!

Need more ideas for innovative program design?  Email me.

If you have a topic or question about program design that you’d like to see featured here, let me know.

photo credit: http://jamiedavies.co

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