Powerful Panels interview with Adrian Segar

Powerful Panels interviewHere’s my Powerful Panels interview with good friend and meeting panel doyen Kristin Arnold. During our 25 minutes together, we discussed various panel formats, their value, and how to structure and design powerful panel discussions into the larger context of meetings, conferences, and events.

Annotated timeline of the video

0:00 Introduction.

2:30 A brief history of meetings; why lecture formats are still so popular; how panels fit into the larger context of meetings.

5:30 When and how to use panels, and why.

8:00 Different panel formats.

9:00 The fishbowl—Adrian’s favorite discussion format (which includes panels as a special case).

10:15 Adrian describes the fishbowl sandwich format, and how he used it to find solutions for an industry-wide problem with a group of several hundred people. Includes a description of pair share. How to know when a session is a smash hit.

14:00 Comparing the fishbowl to Clubhouse. How to run fishbowl in-person and on Zoom.

18:00 Kristin describes her version: empty chair.

18:30 Alternative seating arrangements for fishbowl.

19:00 Why you should use curved theatre seating.

21:00 How these formats satisfy the core purpose of meeting formats: creating great conversation with smart people that delivers valuable takeaways.

22:45 Using the Post It! technique to determine what should be covered during a meeting or session, and at what level.

24:45 Most important takeaway: Be curious about doing meetings differently. Now, there are better formats available for meetings than those we’ve always used. Don’t just read about these formats, but experience them at a well-designed, well-facilitated/moderated event to truly learn how great a meeting can be.


We covered a lot in a short time, but there’s much more to learn about Powerful panels and good meeting design!

If you liked this Powerful Panels interview, check out Kristin’s other Powerful Panels Podcast interviews!

And check out the links in this post to learn more about the topics mentioned.

Bonus: More ways to create panels designed as if the audience matters.

David Adler BizBash Live interview: the best formats for live experiences

At BizBash Live DC, BizBash CEO and Founder David Adler and I took the stage at the Ronald Reagan Building for a wide-reaching interview on the best formats for live experiences in front of an invited crowd of several hundred meeting professionals.

Here’s an annotated video of our 20-minute conversation:

Annotated video

00:00 How the thousand-year history of conferences affects the way we meet today.
02:20 Lectures are terrible ways to learn.
03:00 The forgetting curve and how it reduces the learning at traditional conferences.
04:15 Why I created my first participant-driven and participation-rich meeting in 1992.
06:20 The conference arc.
07:45 Uncovering participants’ wants and needs via crowdsourcing.

11:00 Some crowdsourcing rules of thumb.

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Creating Conferences That Work with Adrian Segar

For an excellent summary of the work I do, check out this interview and podcast, Creating Conferences That Work by Celisa Steele of Leading Learning. The podcast recording is nicely summarized in the show notes, so you can just read about what interests you, and then listen to any or all of the interview sections from the links on the page.

Here’s an overview:

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Q&A with Adrian Segar on Crowdsourcing

This (slightly edited) interview by JT Long appeared in the March 2019 issue of Smart Meetings Magazine.

What led to writing the book, Conferences that Work?

I invented the format by accident 26 years ago when there were no expert speakers to invite for a conference on administrative computing issues in small schools. We needed a format that would allow a room of strangers to learn about each other and the issues we were interested in by using the expertise in the room.

I asked people, “If this conference could be amazing for you, what would it be about?” Then I built a program around those topics, with people in the room leading impromptu sessions. Often, the results are unexpected. The sessions are not polished; there is no PowerPoint. Often it is more like a discussion than a presentation, but that is why it is effective. My research shows that asking in advance doesn’t work. At traditional conferences with fixed programs set in advance, at best half of sessions offered are what attendees want.

That participant-driven conference is still going as a four-day program, with sessions generated over the first half-day.

I discovered that people love the format, and that led to writing the book 10 years ago. I was an amateur in the meeting industry, and that led to some mistakes, but it also gave me a fresh perspective at a time when meeting design wasn’t really a “thing.”

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Integrating participation into conference sessions to improve learning and connection

Simon Waddell‘s second ten minute video interview of me at EIBTM 2012 (the first is here). We cover:

  • the challenges and advantages of incorporating participative techniques into events;
  • my new book; and
  • an upcoming one-day workshop at the FRESH conference.

An introduction to Conferences That Work


An introduction to Conferences That Work.

Simon Waddell‘s ten minute video interview of me at EIBTM 2012. How Conferences That Work were developed, why they are growing in popularity, and the problem of getting meeting owners to buy into participant-driven events.