Panel Discussion – Concept, characteristics and examples

We explain what a discussion board is, its characteristics, function and examples. In addition, the elements that compose it.

Discussion panel
A panel discussion consists of a presentation by each panelist and then an exchange.

What is a panel discussion?

A panel discussion it is a debate format, both in public and behind closed doors, in which a group of invited specialists, called panelists, take turns presenting their opinions on a topic specific. This type of event is very common in the specialized field, especially the political and academic one, and they usually address a topic of common interest, be it scientific, legal or of any other nature.

The discussion panels can be organized in a very diverse way, some for the general public and others as part of events of a technical or specialized community, such as congresses or union meetings. Your invited panelists, likewise, may consist of specialists, authority voices, researchers, or commentators and opinion-makers.

In general, these types of debates are usually short (two to three hours) and consist of an initial presentation by each panelist and then an exchange of arguments around the topic, allowing for replies and interruptions. They are almost always under the coordination of a moderator who watches over the order and preservation of the forms.

Characteristics of a discussion board

Broadly speaking, a panel discussion is characterized by the following:

  • Has 2 or more invited panelists (usually 5 is considered a maximum limit), to generate a contrast or diversity of opinions, and a moderator or coordinator to lead the debate.
  • Give each panelist an opportunity to present their ideas in a coordinated and uninterrupted manner, which does not usually exceed 10 or 15 minutes. Subsequently, the debate occurs, in which the free exchange of arguments, interruption and reply are allowed, as long as the composure is preserved.
  • Each panelist defends a point of view regarding the matter, expanding it when it deems it necessary. If all the panelists freely debate the available points of view on the matter, and everyone has an equal opportunity to speak, we will rather be in the presence of a round table.
  • The public does not usually have any room for participation in the debate, beyond asking questions if the moderator allows it. At other times, questions can be saved for last.
  • The event ends, ideally, with formulating joint conclusions and of some kind of agreement or determination.

What is a panel discussion for?

The discussion boards serve to address a specific topic in the most complete or diverse way, allowing the contrast of points of view and giving room for debate and argumentation by specialists in the field.

It is a fairly flexible discussion format, organized and, if all goes well, peaceful. Thus, it allows to reach conclusions in the face of an interested public, and at the same time promote healthy debate and understanding in matters of public or general interest.

Elements of a panel discussion

The discussion boards comprise the following elements:

  • Panelists or guests, who represent in the debate the different points of view on the matter that will have to be contrasted. Each one should have an opportunity to present their ideas without interruptions, and then the opportunity to defend them argumentatively in front of the other panelists.
  • The moderator or coordinator, generally only one, is in charge of ensuring the forms and equanimity both in the exhibition and in the debate, managing the time available to each person and serving as a bridge between specialists and the public when asking questions.
  • An interested audience, whose nature can be very diverse, but which constitutes the ultimate recipient of the ideas expressed during the debate. At the end of the panel, the public will take the conclusions obtained and the answers to the questions that have been formulated.

Importance of the debate

The debate is an activity of vital importance for the health of a democracy and of a peaceful society. Contrary to what one might think, the civilized verbal confrontation between different points of view on an issue tends to reflect the complexity of reality already promote tolerance towards the reasons of the other, opening spaces for the healthy exercise of listening to the other, even when they think differently.

In a debate, the ideas are the ones who oppose them, not the people who wield them, and even in the most fierce or exciting moments of a debate, attention must be paid to some forms and norms of communication that, in some way, give everyone equal opportunities to express themselves. That is why the debate is within the organization of public power, in the case of the Legislative Assemblies.

Discussion panel examples

Here are some premises to organize a panel discussion, as an example:

  • Bullying or bullying. Why does it occur and what measures should be taken to stop it in time, and prevent it from becoming a more serious phenomenon? This panel could intervene: a school psychologist, a school director or educational coordinator, a child psychoanalyst, and so on.
  • The risks of social networks for privacy. How far should exposure of the intimate be allowed? What risks are run on Social Networks and how can we avoid them? This panel could intervene: a researcher in the field of Social Media, a computer technician, a social psychologist, a sociologist, etc.
  • Latin American political integration for the 21st century. In what way can Latin American nations cooperate for their mutual benefit in political, economic and social matters? What are the role models and what are the scenarios to avoid? The following could intervene in this panel: a political scientist, a career politician, a member of a Latin American NGO, etc.
  • The legalization of abortion. What is the best way to approach the pros and cons of a legal abortion law? What are the limits to be set and what are the risks and benefits? The following could intervene in this panel: a gynecologist, a feminist activist, a politician, a philosopher, and so on.