Panel events: Are you creating an echo chamber of views?

Many years ago, I chaired a roundtable on the future of business parks.

A business park developer, an agent who leased business park space, an architect who designed business parks, and a business park tenant took part in the discussion.

Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

There was lots of excited conversation about what the business park of the future would look like, what facilities it would have and how it would be used.

The occupier wasn’t joining in, so I asked what they thought of the suggestions. What they said stopped everyone in their tracks.


The tenant – the business that may or may not lease space in the future – didn’t want most of what was suggested.

Instead, they reeled off a list of what they did want from a business park.

I used to regularly chair panel discussions for the magazine I worked for.

Curve ball panellist

They were great generators of content and brand awareness but what made them really fly was when there was a ‘curve ball’ panellist.

There would be a range of people on the panel representing different sides of property development. However, the best discussions were when there was someone whose experience was different from the rest of the panellists.

An outsider.

One example was a discussion about economic growth in a particular region. Four out of five of the panellists were from the area and one was not.

There were strong views from those in the region about what would attract business and investment and the space they would need to build.

The outsider was a big investor looking for fresh opportunities. Did they see this region as a good place to invest?

Photo by Headway on Unsplash

Not really. They proceeded to set out all the barriers, all the disincentives, to pumping money into this particular market.

It was another bombshell moment.

When putting the panel together, it wasn’t about creating controversy for the sake of it; it was about challenging popular opinion.

It’s easy to sit comfortably in an echo chamber, hearing variations of what you already know and think.

Challenge thinking

Bringing in a different viewpoint can get people thinking, spark fresh ideas and a new approach.

The outsider’s presence on the panel had originally attracted scepticism, but afterwards, people commented how much more interesting the panel had been as a result.

It generated many more talking points. The hubbub in the room afterwards had a different energy – and made for a memorable event.

And that could be reflected in the content produced around the event.

Is there a bombshell moment from an event that sticks in your mind?

Related content you might like to read:

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How to create great content from your online event

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