Panel Discussion


Host a panel of speakers on a hot topic or current event – academics, D&I professionals, an alumni leaders, or others


  • Reach a large audience
  • Push people’s thinking about diversity and inclusion
  • Provide visibility to club

Theory of Change

Listening to a panel has a very low barrier to entry and requires little energy for participants to show up. This allows you to get a broader range of people willing to show up (if you do recruitment right), and get them thinking more about D&I.


Costs and food

  • Panelist fees 
  • Food (optional) – nice to have appetizers and drinks after the speaker to continue the conversation

Target / likely audience

Dependent on panelists and topic

Location / Participation Size

The room necessary capacity depends on how popular the panel is going to be and the crowd that your PR efforts can draw

A/V Needs

Projector and audio equipment

Other resources needed

  • List of questions, topics, and prompts for panelists
  • Ask the panelists if they have any materials that they would want to hand out, either promotional or educational
  • Handouts (flyers, postcards) that explain club basics (i.e. mission statement), how to join, event calendar (or next event), a quote about the club’s importance
  • Allyship group membership and email subscription forms
  • Gifts for the panelists

Roles and responsibilities

  • Program leadPlan way ahead. Ability to pay attention to many small details. Create moderations prompts and questions. Solicit questions and topics from colleagues. Ensure logistics for the panelists are covered. Create gift bags.
  • Panel moderator – This could be a student or someone else. They're in charge of asking questions, calling on panelists, and making sure the conversation is lively and dynamic. 
  • Panelist contact person  If you have popular panelists (especially those who are on the road a lot), have someone designated as their handler. The contact person meets and brings them to where they need to be. Ensure that speakers have water and A/V needs met. The contact person should have panelists' cell phone numbers or preferred communication method for last minute logistics.
  • A/V lead – Someone who knows how to check and fix any A/V issues.
  • Food logistics – Order food, ensure proper tableware (plates, cups, utensils, napkins, etc), ensure food delivery arrives to right location on time.
  • Photography, social media, and documentation – Take pictures during event. Have folks write down something they learned on a piece of white paper, take a photo of them, and upload to community social media. Document learnings to be shared out to larger audience.

Agenda / Program

  • Introduce the topic, provide a bit of background on it. Explain why it was chosen and the general interest in it
  • Introduce the panelists, their virtues, and why the club wanted them to come
  • Panelists speak with facilitation from moderator
  • Q&A with audience
  • Reception with food

Tips and pitfalls

  • Make sure to give yourself a lot of lead time to find a great speaker! Even local professionals are often booked a few months in advance.


3-6 months prior

  • Reach out to potential panelists. Some people book months in advance.
  • Get room reservation and confirm A/V setup and needs

1-2 months prior

  • Begin marketing the event
  • Open RSVPs

1 week prior

  • Make sure somebody is on top of ordering food and food setup logistics
  • Crowdsource additional topics, questions, and prompts from attendees

1 day prior

  • Finalize RSVPs
  • Remind RSVPs about date/time/location
  • Finalize food order, make sure plates, cups and utensils are ready
  • Make sure any Audio/Visual is ready

Event day prep time:

  • Bring all handouts
  • Arrive to location early enough to do setup
  • Handful of volunteers to make sure food and drink is happening and that there are enough knowledgeable people about what the club at the event, that people are engaged not just with small talk but also what the club is and why it matters
  • Make sure person in charge of food knows how to collect the delivery and set everything up and that they have all eating materials required
  • Test A/V equipment

Immediately after event

  • Get men to write down things they learned and/or actions they'll take in the future on a sheet of paper with a thick marker. Take a photo of them holding it.

1 day after

  • Post any pictures taken of people who wrote something they learned on a piece of paper
  • Thank participants for coming. Share the list of questions and topics that you didn't get to
  • Thank panelists individually with personalized thank you note

1 week after

  • Email links related to brainstormed questions and topics


Subject: [Some provocative question related to the speaker/topic]

Join renowned speaker, [speaker name], for a talk on [subject]. [more here related to the interest in this topic and speaker].

[day] [date] 
Please RSVP here: [Link]

Come for the enlightening talk and stay afterwards for a reception with wine and snacks.