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Abbott Elementary

Ensuring a Win for Your Audience Is the Best Goal for a Panel Discussion

Ensuring a Win for Your Audience Is the Best Goal for a Panel Discussion 1307 878 I Need A Speaker

By Jeannine Luby, Marketing Communications Consultant

In the words of Principal Ava Coleman, “We have to win this panel.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1xlSTJjmEDw).

One episode of the ABC sitcom “Abbott Elementary” featured Principal Ava Coleman and her favorite teacher, Gregory Eddie, representing their school at a panel discussion that turns into a competition. Every response delivered was scored based on the audience’s enthusiastic nods and applause, or lack thereof.  Ava was feeling especially motivated, given that her competition was her nemesis and former sorority sister Krystal, the principal from another Philadelphia school.

While this idea of competing to win a panel discussion makes for a humorous sitcom premise, it raises a good question:  What would it look like to win a panel discussion?

What Does a Win Look Like?

Barbara Howard, a kindergarten teacher at the fictional Abbott Elementary offered this advice to Mr. Eddie, “The best response is the one given with a smile.”

That is generally sound advice, as a speaker who smiles appears friendly, warm, and approachable. However, if you’re giving a talk on mortality rates, you might want to save the smile for another time.  Context is important. Facial expressions should match the tone of the topic and your message points.

Mr. Eddie went to the panel with a rather apathetic attitude and the goal of talking with other educators saying maybe he could learn from them.

Learning is always admirable, but connecting with other panelists should not be your primary goal.

A panelist is there to deliver value to the audience. That doesn’t mean you can’t get to know your fellow panelists. In fact, it’s smart to reach out to them prior to the discussion to compare notes.  Repeating key points for the audience’s retention is one thing, but rehashing information is not helpful. Check out our previous post about this.

Focus on your audience’s needs. While it’s great for speakers to find common ground and mutual interest, you have an audience who came to learn something from you. Keep them engaged. You can always grab a drink after the event or schedule a follow-up coffee if you want to talk shop with fellow panelists.

Showmanship vs. Substance

If you’ve watched Abbott Elementary, you know that Principal Coleman is all about style. She could school anyone on glitz and glam, yet she struggled to compete with her counterpart in the panel discussion who shared anthems that rallied parents in the audience.

When asked what the single most important thing is about being a leader, Ava’s response of, “Showing up, looking good, and being on,” was met with silence.

While Krystal’s response of, “Being a leader means asking yourself: Would I follow me?” was met with fervent support and applause.

Slick, sound-bite style answers continued to win over the audience. Does that constitute a win?

Tech writer Aditya Kumar Singh wrote, “In an era driven by social media and instant gratification, the allure of showmanship in the tech and research industry is undeniable.”  While his article published on Medium.com on June 5, 2023 (https://medium.com/@sadityakumar9211/unmasking-the-showmanship-culture-in-the-tech-and-research-industry-all-glam-no-substance-25cc5fb11482), is about a specific industry, his words can apply to any industry.  He wrote “Underneath the glitz and glamour, however, lies a troubling reality: the absence of meaningful work. The showmanship culture often masks a lack of substantial achievements or tangible results. It fosters an environment where style triumphs over substance, and the focus shifts from genuine progress to mere appearances.”

The substance of your panel discussion content matters. That’s what your audience deserves, so bring your A game (no, that doesn’t stand for Ava).

 

 

Photo source: IMDB

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