Tap Into the Unrealized Potential of Panel Discussions

January 26, 2024 Array Team

Make attendees part of the conversation and gain actionable insights

Panel discussions are, in the most basic sense, discussions among a group of people who have expertise and opinions on a particular topic. These are seen as valuable because the audience gets to hear unique insights from multiple perspectives. Look around any panel room, though, and you’ll see a good percentage of people multitasking on their devices (everything from checking email to shopping). Likely only a few people will have questions when prompted, representing only a portion of the issues addressed on the whole. There’s no way to know what everyone else was thinking. This is a huge, missed opportunity. Panel discussions have the potential to be two-way conversations between the panelists and an interested, engaged audience. The benefits to this go both ways. Panelists are more confident and comfortable when polls and questions being answered demonstrate the audience is engaged, and audiences tend to pay more attention and become more involved when they see panelists interact and respond to their input.

Ultimately, panels can reveal new topics and new ways of thinking around important topics such as administering a certain treatment or drug, or enrolling patients in a particular type of trial. Most importantly, stakeholders can learn what individuals found most interesting, what thoughts they had on a particular topic and what from the panel might have been confusing and worth more discussions later. 

By treating panel discussions like the important opportunities they are, Array helps our partners deliver engaging and interesting panels with unprecedented insights. The following are some of the ways we have been able to help our partners evolve their panels and the benefits of doing so:

 Insights planning

We work together from the planning stage to help engineer the best engagement tools to use to generate relevant data. Those tools are deployed via managed iPads© in the hands of the attendees (removing the distractions of their personal devices), and we collect and analyze that data to provide a final report with actionable insights.

 Agenda setting

During planning, we learn the stakeholder’s goals for the panel and help set a detailed topic agenda, along with some key talking points to be covered. The agenda can then be presented on the managed iPads at the beginning of the meeting. This lends structure to the panel and gives people insight into whether something they want to hear more about will be discussed, or if they want to prompt the topic in Q&A.

Array’s pre-meeting survey function enables attendees to rank topics in terms of importance. Having the audience vote determine the first talking point of the panel is a really strong way to engage from the start. 


The audience is encouraged to use the iPads to submit any questions to the panel at any time for consideration. The more questions submitted, the better the selection to choose from. The moderator should read a question aloud from the iPad early on – to show that the questions are not disappearing into a black hole. This will immediately drive more audience input, as attendees value having their question or comment recognized by a respected expert. Rather than use microphones or mic runners to ask for questions, the panel can engage attendees individually. From the Q&A list, they can click on the question, name the person who asked it and then hand them a microphone to provide their input.

Additionally, there are several options for who manages the questions on the iPads. While having a moderator with an iPad is usually preferred, it’s also feasible to give each panelist an iPad. Meeting managers or stakeholders can also filter the questions from the sidelines before they get to the moderator, and “approve” only the best for consideration.

 Topic slides

Topic slides allow the moderator to set time allotments for each talking point to ensure adequate time for each topic. They are then used to introduce the next talking point. In addition to topic slides, the presentation could also include general slides that contain any relevant facts, statistics or explanations for the audience to reference around each topic of discussion.

Attendees can take notes directly on the slides on the iPads and have them emailed to them following the panel. This also helps maintain audience focus on the discussion rather than on a second source for note taking. Array can collect data at the slide level, sharing with the stakeholder what notes were taken on each slide and what questions were asked while that slide was presented. This feedback is valuable for understanding interest in individual talking points, as well as gaining specific insight into what attendees were thinking, directly from their own notations.This helps a stakeholder adjust programming for a series of meetings where the panel will be the same, or to develop new programming around important new insights.

 Surveys and polling questions

Surveys and polling questions are valuable tools for gathering individual insights. In the context of a panel discussion, though, they are a great way to make the audience active participants rather than listeners. For example, it’s helpful to present an individual polling question as a means of launching into a new topic. This will allow the audience to be a “silent” member of the panel during the conversation. Being able to identify what an audience thinks about the topic makes their opinion an element for consideration in the discussion. The results from the presurvey can be shown at any point in the same way and incorporated as needed.

 You can even take it a step further and ask the same polling question at the end of the topic, showing the impact, or change in opinion (as a comparative graph) that the panel discussion made on the audience. Of course, this could also be done in the evaluation pushed out at the end of each session.

 Evaluation and panel feedback forms

Usually, evaluations at the end of the panel discussion are the only source of feedback a stakeholder receives. When used as part of a comprehensive engagement and insights program, the evaluation can be targeted to gathering people’s opinions, key takeaways, or concerns about the panel at the end of each topic, at the end of the entire program, or both.  

 Elevate your panels for business goals

By implementing engagement and analytics strategies typical of other life sciences meeting types, panel discussions can be so much more than a discussion. Array can help you plan to generate the insights from panels that would inform business decisions, help you get a drug to market and improve patient care.

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