Panel discussions entail a facilitator, several experts (panelists) and the audience. The purpose of a panel discussion is to offer the opportunity to receive various views on a topic or topics from experts of diverse fields. Panels can be very effective when there is a true difference of opinion or disagreement between professionals. The role of the facilitator involves more than just introducing speakers and includes:
- guiding interactions between panelists and audience.
- repeating questions.
- engaging the panelists.
- creating opportunities for discussion.
It is best to use a trained leader as a facilitator. The facilitator:
- takes an active role to accentuate and extend discussion, bringing out ideas of the experts.
- capitalizes on constructive conflict or differences.
- sharpens differences between panelists.
- brings together the ideas in a coherent manner.
- provides a communication link among speakers and audience.