Mark Suster, who writes the best VC blog out there right now, has a post about sitting on panels. He gives the following advice:

  • Educate
  • Entertain
  • Discuss and Debate (have a dialog)
  • Build Awareness of your firm/company/brand
  • Make connections with your other panelists and follow-up with them
  • Avoid panels that are too big
  • Don't over promote
  • Don't give a long winded intro
  • Don't hog the microphone
  • Don't try to moderate the panel

Excellent advice Mark. I agree with all of it. Read Mark's post for the details.

All that said, I really hate panels. I hate watching them and I hate being on them even more. I think it's a lazy way to participate in a conference. You show up, answer a few questions, sit up on the stage with a bunch of other people, and then go home.

I much prefer the 15-20 minute talk with Q&A afterward. I think I'd prefer even more a 10 minute talk with longer Q&A afterward.

Panels rarely turn into interesting discussions. If you want an interesting discussion, have someone good do an on-stage interview. I've done on stage interviews with people like John Battelle, John Heilemann, and Alan Murray and they are fantastic discussions. I'd like to do more of them.

I'm on record that I don't like big time conferences. Now I'm on record that I don't like panels.

But I do like small conferences focused on a particular group or sector. And I do like to see a short presentation or a well done interview and I also like to deliver them as well. I'd love to see more of all of those things.

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. David Levine

    I’m going to disagree with 1 point. Unless it’s a panel intended to highlight your company or brand, never ever use it as an opportunity to explicitly raise the profile of your company. People pay good money to be educated and inspired – not to be sold to. If you truly are a thought-leader that will come across straight-away and be far more effective in selling your product and company

    1. jeffreymcmanus

      Raising the profile of your company is the tax that the conference and its attendees pay for having you there. It’s the same dynamic as a major movie star appearing on a late-night talk show. They’re they’re to talk, but they’re really there to promote their movie.

    2. andyswan

      Of course you’re using it to raise your profile. That’s the currency of speaking engagements (usually).That said, I agree….do it right and be effective, not wrong and ineffective.

  2. Kevin Vogelsang

    If it’s not highly-moderated, any discussion with 3 or more people, whether it’s on stage or just amongst yourselves, is chaotic.When I took some MBA courses, I felt case studies were nearly worthless. The discussion involved so many people that there was rarely an in depth conversation on key points. Sure, they were interesting, but that’s about it. The same goes for other discussion based classes (ethics/philosophy courses may be the worst for this). Panels are the same way and a waste of the expertise on the stage.I guess I agree. Give me the best minds on the topic, but let them talk long enough to provide real insight and some good stories to illustrate.This all goes back to the concept that great products are not created by democracy….(although, not really talking about government here, but it applies)

    1. Tereza

      If I were organizing an event, I wouldn’t waste my “best minds” on a panel.They’re the “fireside chat” or the Keynote, depending on what you’re trying to do.

  3. Roy Rodenstein

    I think I know where you’re coming from, Fred. There’s just something… predictable… about most panels. I think they still have appeal for many audiences because, for example, seeing a Mark Suster in person and speaking his points with full bravado, ad-libbing live etc. is very interesting if you’ve followed his blog. But outside of the “celebrity factor” I agree they are often cursory and sometimes rehash what each of the panelists is already known for. It takes an incisive moderator to stay out of this rut.

  4. Tereza

    For an up-and-comer, any exposure is good exposure. So at this stage I can’t really imagine saying no to a panel. (OK OK, maybe not the Mt. Kisco Rotary Club)But really, I’m not sure what the objective is of panels. If it’s a quick smorgasbord for exposure to a new area or characters, it may be passably effective. If you want new and insightful info, not the place.Events which offer panel after panel over the course of a day or two, tend to (d)evolve toward an asympototic averageness. By the third one, everyone is saying the same thing and I’m sneaking out for another cup o’ joe and to check voicemail. They’re not set up to provoke or intrigue, but to lob out sweepingly acceptable statements.But what I really hate is events that charge ridiculous sums of money, that peons like me are supposed to shell that out? Extortion. And then we have to watch panels where we don’t get any juice from any of the speakers? Yeah, right.Jason Calacanis has opined on paying to pitch. I extend that to this. There are plenty of good free events. A short while back I went on a moratorium on paid events. The effectiveness of my networking accelerated as a result.A neat trick is to pull down the list of speakers off the web, consider whether any of them are important to me, and figuring out whether I can tunnel in through a personal connection. Or start hanging out in their DISQUS comments.On the topic of networking, I wrote a post about it last night — the gal’s perspective. Take a look if you’re interested.

    1. andyswan

      Good blog! When you do get invited onto a panel, Tereza… an entertaining “bitch”. Nothing better in a field usually comprised of annoyingly polite men and typically demure women.

      1. fredwilson


    2. robertavila

      “Consider the public. Treat it with tact and courtesy. It will accept much from you if you are clever enough to win it to your side. Never fear it nor despise it. Coax it, charm it, interest it, stimulate it, shock it now and then, if you must, make it laugh, make it cry and make it think, but above all, dear pioneers, in spite of indiscriminate and largely ignorant critical acclaim, in spite of awards and prizes and other dubious accolades, never never never bore the living hell out of it” – Noel Coward

      1. Tereza

        Robert you get a standing O!I laughed, I cried….

    3. Mark Essel

      Maybe it’s a marketing game Tereza?To stand out in a crowd of other experts. To show you own a subject area, and get the rest of the panel staring at your insanely dedicated/knowledgeable run away wisdom bomb dropping. I’ve only been on light hearted geek panels at sci-fi conventions (common trends between terraforming and neo-christianity)

  5. Tereza

    Entertain is really important. So many people neglect this!Panelists (and other speakers) are often are dry as toast and it pisses me off if they don’t make an effort.Also — re: Mark’s statement for panelists to connect with other panelists. This adds intrigue! It really shakes things up in a good way when one panelist turns it over and asks a co-panelist to chime in.Suddenly, we’re in on a conversation, and not a sequential bunch of talking heads.

  6. LIAD

    panel sessions are a poor-man’s keynote. they’re usually just time fillers between the real content.the only time I ever saw a kick ass panel was at New York Entrepreneurship week last year and the main reason for that was that Brad Feld was on it. Lets just say he wasn’t backward in coming forward.(+1 on Mark’s blog – varied content, sufficiently detailed to have something to chew on, great insights)

  7. kidmercury

    panels are stupid. everybody needs to go back to work instead.quite controversial of you boss to say suster’s blog is the best VC blog bar none…..hope brad feld doesn’t see that comment…..

    1. fredwilson

      I said right now

      1. kidmercury

        oh so you don’t think it’ll last? damn boss i guess no one can catch a break with you

    2. Carl Rahn Griffith

      Panels always remind me of The Last Supper.

  8. andyswan

    I would not join any panel that would have someone like me for a participant.

    1. fredwilson

      Love that sentiment. Groucho marx, right?

      1. andyswan


      2. Tereza

        Yes, Groucho.

  9. andyswan

    “Entertain”, “Educate” and “Inspire” (which I’m sure he’d like to add)… other words, EARN the attention of the audience. The mere fact that you were invited and accepted entitles you to nothing more than a fair chance.

  10. Cate Long

    I highly recommend the “unconference” format for sharing and learning. Kind of like a powwow…

    1. ShanaC

      Speaking of which, I need to find a copy of PBWiki- I have got plans……secret plans….

  11. Jake Baker

    Well – I think many of us are glad you’ll be on a panel tonight. Can’t wait!

    1. fredwilson

      I honestly hadn’t considered that when I wrote this post. Very feudian I suppose. I’ll do my best tonite

      1. Randall Kane

        It will be hard for it not to be a great panel with both you and Jacqueline on at the same time!

  12. Tereza

    Shhhhake it up, bay-bee!Actually I like to think my persona isn’t that bitchy.Or at least, that’s not what they tell me to my face. 🙂

    1. ShanaC

      I think you are polite… I aim to try and be polite.

      1. Tereza

        You are right. I was being tongue and cheek before.Outspoken and provocative is fine (in fact, encouraged).Rude and disrespectful is never OK.Be yourself.

        1. ShanaC

          OK- add polite to the list. And I’m changing it to self-discovery is alsook. Sometimes when I talk to people they make me think and re-elvauluatewhat I say and think myself. I’ve never been on a panel- if I were, Ifigure the guy next to me is as smart as I am (until proven otherwise) (andstill may be smarter than me on some topic I don’t know about…) andtherefore can teach me something.So I think the key- really listen. Just my $.02 (not including inflation)

  13. karen_e

    Well, this is timely! As I have mentioned in this space before, I have built a small speaking career this year, speaking on social media as it applies to marketing/business development in my industry (many of Fred’s posts and your comments have been worked into my presentations). Last year, while still wet behind the ears at all this, I applied to give a workshop at a local conference and got rejected. Around the same time I also was asked to review conference proposals for a very large national conference. Doing this, I found that in many cases, well-thought-out panels were more dynamic-seeming and acceptance-worthy than individuals’ talks. So this year, for the local conference, I vowed to prepare a panel. I’m in the middle of planning it right now, and it’s great fun. As moderator, I’m choosing the best of the best – no duds on my panel! I read Mark’s post and find a lot of good tips in there. At this stage in my career, speaking around town and organizing panels is excellent business. Maybe someday when I’m a distinguished old VC 🙂 it won’t seem like such a great thing, but for a mid-career person who likes peppering her week with a little showbiz excitement, it has been a ton of fun and has raised both my firm’s and my own profile within my peer group network, for sure.

    1. Mark Essel

      Inspiring share Karen, thanks 🙂

    2. Tereza

      1. Phooey on the boneheads that rejected you. Their loss.2. There is a difference between what is really good for the audience and what they think is good for them. Standalone speakers are tough to draw a crowd unless there is a cult of personality around them. If you’re in the business of selling tickets, a panel will draw a broader audience because there’s more likely to be something of interest for everybody. But it’s a lot more work to craft it and very dependent on a great moderator. There are a lot of bad moderators.

    3. andyswan

      Karen email me andy at andyswan com I have an intro to make and would like to know more. Thx

      1. ShanaC

        That’s Swantastic!

  14. Rob K

    Mark does entertain; I saw him at Leadscon last week and he was pushing the moderator to open the discussion to those things the audience actually cared about. I generally agree with you about panels because the panelists are generally similar and the moderator asks a bland question and then gets 4 similar opinions. Panels should be about dialog and debate. Let the panelists ask questions of each other.

  15. awaldstein

    I’m reading this with interest and trepidation as I prepare a 20 minute Keynote that I was asked to give.Now I know I need to be interesting. Smart. Entertaining. And speak slowly and carefully to the Brits.Oy 😉

    1. Mark Essel

      If all else fails, make fun of American pop music. The world must know we don’t all support it’s mind melting lyrical assault on reason.

      1. awaldstein

        Now I finally have a topic to talk on Mark!

      2. Tereza

        Awww Mark and until now I respected you.Long live Lady Gaga.;-)

        1. Mark Essel

          I’m looking more for fanatical devotion. I can live without people’s respect 🙂

    2. David Semeria

      “Speak slowly and carefully to the Brits” – most amusing Arnold, and don’t use long words either !!

      1. awaldstein

        Sage advice David. No one has ever needed a dictionary to talk with me 😉

    3. RichardF

      ….using the Queen’s English obviously 🙂

      1. awaldstein

        Funny you should mention this Richard.Talking with a popular London-based social media blogger about doing some guest posts while over there and yup…that was a request!

        1. RichardF

          well in which case I hope you ham up the NY accent for the crowd then Arnold!

          1. awaldstein


    4. Carl Rahn Griffith

      I like the B. R. Ambedkar philosophy: “Educate!!!, Agitate!!!, Organise!!!”

      1. awaldstein

        First one…maybeSecond one…certainlyThird one…doubtful

        1. Carl Rahn Griffith

          As the song goes, “2 out of 3 ain’t bad” … have a great time in London!

  16. karen_e

    One correction to your bullet points, Fred. I don’t think Mark is saying “don’t try to moderate the panel.” With his player/manager analogy I think he is saying if you are the moderator, then simply be the moderator. As in so many other things in life, know thy role.

    1. msuster

      Yes, you’re right. Thank you for pointing out.

  17. Mark Essel

    Fred, you’re take on big conferences and big panels fits well with your firm’s investment philosophy of backing a small number of startups. Restricting conference focus, and attention on just one or two speakers jives with USV focusing their attention on a handful of deals a year, and a limited portfolio size.My ideal conference is a day long, with a panel that shifts over time with audience members. The unconference has appeal, participatory learning and connecting uses risk and uncertainty to shake conference members out of their comfort zone. As far as talks in general, I prefer one or two visual slides but the majority of the talk to be focused on the speaker. We can read slides, or docs at home. Let’s focus gathering on listening and heavy Q&A (that’s where the truth of a great speaker comes out). Listening to questions, and improvising answers shakesoff the cruft of regurgitated doctrine speak (which we’re all guilty of).

    1. Tereza

      Like a blog with a thesis, and a VC fund with a thesis, a conference with an edgy/out there thesis is going to do better.Something that gets people arguing, throwing chairs and burning bras is going to be a lot more valuable…and interesting…. than the one entitled “Exploring Convergence”.I’m being dramatic here, but you catch my drift.

      1. Mark Essel

        I can’t out do Jerry Springer, he’s got that “panel” format covered

  18. ErikSchwartz

    Panels are best when they turn into arguments.

    1. cindygallop

      Agree. I would add to the above list:ProvokeBe controversialSpecifically put together panels where every single participant has a different point of view, and one that they hold very strongly, feel very passionate about and are very good at articulatingDon’t feel you have to agree with or be polite to everyone else on the panelGive the audience their money’s worth

    2. kidmercury

      agreed def gotta start beefs whenever possible

  19. Defrag/Glue

    Hey Fred – as a guy that runs (soon to be 3) tech conferences — Glue ( and Defrag (, I agree re: panels. The irony of that statement is that when you came to Defrag, you were on a panel. ;-)I’ve been experimenting w/ a format wherein you have 3-4 people give their 10 minute “point of view” solo on stage, and then close w/ a Q&A/discussion period of 20-30 minutes. I’m not sure it’s the perfect format – but it’s closer.The truth is that compressing people’s time on stage usually makes them a better presenter — and something in the 15-20 minute range is optimal for most people.Hope to see you at Gluecon or Defrag again this year…ejn

    1. fredwilson

      i like that idea

    2. joeagliozzo

      That was the format for the sessions I spoke at for Search Engine Strategies and I thought it worked very well. The audience was sure to get solid content from each of 3 or 4 speakers and then any points or controversies got fleshed out in the Q&A period. Danny Sullivan and his successors always vetted all the presentations to be given by each speaker prior as well to make sure it was more than just a sales job. I had a good time as an audience member and as a speaker at those events (same with Affiliate Summit events).

  20. GlennKelman

    I learned this the hard way Fred. After you came out, I just wished we had you or maybe one or two other folks speak. I’m still grateful though. Good post.

    1. fredwilson

      i particularly don’t like panels where arrington baits me 🙂

      1. kidmercury

        tehre’s a really great joke opportunity somewhere here. unfortunately it escapes me at the moment. hope a fellow fredlander can seize the opportunity.

  21. greenskeptic

    As the guy who is about to moderate a panel with Fred on it tonight, it’s a bit disconcerting to read this post this morning. However, I accept the challenge of making our panel tonight entertaining, educating and inspiring. But, Fred, may I ask that you leave your distaste for panels at the door this evening and help me make it successful for you and for the audience.I like the whiskey slam idea. Maybe we’ll try that tonight.

    1. Tereza

      Yeah! Four whiskies for Fred and his countdown of the Top Ten AVC DISQUS comments ever.

    2. fredwilson

      i honestly did not even think about tonight when i wrote this post. it was plain and simply a reaction to Suster’s post. instead of leaving my distaste for panels at the door, let’s embrace it and make it a call to action to do an “un panel”

      1. greenskeptic

        That’s what I was hoping for – a “un-Panel”!

  22. Doug Covey

    I agree, big time conferences loose impact, personality and ultimately end up in small focused circles anyway. And before the panel starts, make sure everyone takes a bite of humble pie but don’t drink the cool-aid.

    1. fredwilson

      humble pie should be served up before every panel

      1. Carl Rahn Griffith

        Indeed. A Plenary session approach/mind-set often works better, in my experience.

  23. Loic Le Meur

    Hi Fred, I promise I will never invite you to a panel anymore! Want to do a 20 mins keynote at LeWeb? Let me know

    1. fredwilson

      if we can come up with a good topic, yes

      1. Loic Le Meur

        let me know 🙂

    2. RichardF

      Actually Loic I’d like to say that one of the most useful panels I’ve seen recently was the mobile apps round table at LeWeb 09.In terms of presentation from the panelists it may not have been the most entertaining but there were some really insightful comments from them particularly Andrew Fisher of Shazam, so thanks for that.

      1. Loic Le Meur

        very glad to hear Richard! There are some topics which I think work muchbetter in panel format… I am always trying to reduce the number of panelsof leweb to the minimum though

    3. Mark Essel

      I’m sure you can come up with a panel that even Fred would want to hop in.Fred giving the keynote would be a great draw :). Maybe I’ll have the time and cash for a visit (really enjoyed your interview with Seth Godin a while back).

      1. Loic Le Meur

        Hope you can join us! Had lots of fun with Seth Godin

  24. baba12

    most folks in panels never are speaking the truth.I am doubtful, those who listen to such discussion also are not being honest to themselves.Thus it perpetuates and is cyclical.If one stands up and speaks truthfully then he/she becomes the pariah, after all a lot of the panelists are hyping something or pushing something they have a vested interest in.When was the Last Objective panel discussion you have attended wherein you came away feeling ” I am enlightened”. Culturally we have lost our spine to be honest and don’t like being told the truth, thus it is a self serving message mill crafted for panels of similar views & ideas.

  25. Lucas Cioffi

    A friend of mine, Kaliya Hamlin, is a brilliant unconference facilitator and has led some of the inter-agency Open Government Directive Workshops here in DC. She’s been experimenting with the idea of an “unpanel”:…A Google search will display several formats for unpanels, but none quite like hers. She uses a fishbowl method where the speakers are seated in a circle in the center of the room and the audience is seated in concentric circles around them. There is at least one open seat where members of the audience can rotate into the unpanel discussion as a speaker. It’s a highly conversational and engaging format.

    1. ShanaC

      I might borrow that one day. That sounds like fun, but I would plant an audience member for the first question to get people comfortable with the idea of sitting in the chair

      1. Tereza

        That’s smart.

    2. Tereza

      Sounds cool!This makes me think that some age-old techniques of improv and theater can work wonders to make it engaging and drive the discussion to a new level.

      1. karen_e

        I draw on a background in the performing arts for my professional talks.

  26. Spencer Fry

    I’m actually on my first panel at NYEW this year. Really looking forward to it. I know it’s not the ideal situation — I agree with a lot of your points — but for lesser known people like myself you’ve gotta start somewhere.I’ve given a lecture once and giving one again later this year at an NYU entrepreneurial class put on by the head of Firstmark, but am happy to do a panel too. I do far prefer the 15 minute talk followed by Q&A, though.

  27. ShanaC

    Not that I have plans to ever do a conference or public speak (not at that stage of life, and for some reason, speaking as me in public makes me a little nervous….) but I would totally go on stage as an art student, and talk about anarchism and the web…nothing like talking about the art hackers as an art-hacker and theoretical approaches to ambivalence in media. I would love to annoy people about the idea of the virtual body being an affrontable and attackable substance that your real life person feels attached to, despite being distinct entities in distinct spaces- now that would be an interesting talk (to me….)I’m stuck in my BA…and I like it when people get pissed off and militant about topics involving it (which is far more Common, because hey, some people doing work in my field, are functioning Marxists….good reading times…)

  28. msuster

    Fred, thank you for the very kind words. Couple of quick thoughts:- I don’t like panels either. I always prefer to give a 10-20 minute talk and I push for it if possible- Problem is that getting a speaking slot tough ask unless you’re “big time” so many startups will struggle to get this. I think being on the panel is a good fall back position and better than nothing. As I mentioned, it’s a good way to get other people to know you and to help startups build relationships with other panelist.- For that reason when I was a first time startup I would only join panels where I felt I would benefit from meeting the other panel participants and from the exposure to the crowd. It was my major criteria.- Now I will sometimes join panels where I feel that I can help educate. For this reason I do a lot of panels for universities where my benefit is much less. In my 40’s I feel I’m in the giving more than getting stage of my career at some events. Plus, I love the energy created when you interact with eager students. Pure joy.- Anyone who knows me well knows that I NEVER sit through panels. I, too, hate the format. I go to conferences to spend time in the hallways with people I want to reconnect with or to meet new people – it’s the only reason I go. Reason I hate panels is because a) they’re boring and b) nobody tells you anything real. It’s all marketing, marketing, marketing. When I’m on a panel I always try to tell people something of real value.- And the best VC blog out there is What takes my 2,000+ words to get out you always summarize more succinctly and the meat is Disqus’d in the comments. Thanks for inspiring. I read daily.

    1. ShanaC

      Some of us like reading 2000 word when we have time…You have an authentic voice, use it to sound like yourself….

    2. fredwilson

      mark – i meant what i said, “the best VC blog out there right now”there have been periods where i thought Brad Feld was putting the best stuff out thereand times that i thought i wasand times that others, like Jeff Busgang or Marc Andreessen, werebut right now you are on a roll, like Jordan or Kobe when they get that look in their eyesit’s a pleasure to watch

      1. Tereza

        awwwwGroup Hug

  29. Srinivas Rao

    Agreed. Panels are usually awful in my experience. I never learn much and personally I’d be get more from sitting around having a few drinks with the people on the panel and having a conversation.

  30. David Noël

    Who needs panels when there’s this awesome community, Disqus in and on – to use Kid’s term – Fredland?!

    1. kidmercury

      mark essel actually coined the term, though i am certainly an evangelist

  31. daryn

    I’m going to the SXSW interactive later this month. Sounds like the worst of both worlds for you: It’s obviously huge (which I’m not a big fan of either) and it’s got a lot of panels. It’s just one of those events I’ve always heard good things about, it gets lots of people I know both online and off into one city for a week, and I’ve always wanted to go, so this year I said I’d check it out.For me, panels are a break from the learning and more involved sessions, and usually an entertaining if not always interesting way to overhear a discussion between people I otherwise might not have the chance to sit around and shoot the shit with. I couldn’t imaging sitting through more than one in a day though.

  32. benortega

    Panels would be better served by letting someone from the audience ask the questions. Off the hook, pointed based on their needs vs. the ‘good to know’ questions.If you’re speaking to a group of entrepreneurs that are hungry and anxious, their questions will be different than the host, who 99% of the time is probably not actively building a startup.

  33. Nathaniel Whittemore

    Great post on an actually important topic.I got my start founding a “conference” for student social entrepreneurs ( and we abandoned panels entirely for two main reasons:1. The format just doesn’t lend itself well to going deep – by the time you get everyone through their intros, the thing is over. 2. It reinforces a divide between speaker and attendee that while sometimes reasonable instantly slots the attendees into a disempowered category.I think we’re in a fascinating time in which the importance of offline gatherings is increasing every day, but our dissatisfaction with the cookie cutter, media-empire-owned conference is waning fast. I think this is why you see so many new types of events – Ignites, Pecha Kuchas, TEDxs, and more springing up to fill the void.I’m really excited to see where this heads next!

    1. JLM

      Damn, Pecha Kuchas, I am impressed!A million years ago I was in a similar setting w/ IM Pei, Philip Johnson, Helmut Jahn and a bunch of other famous architects who each put up 5 pictures, renderings and then the picture of the finished building.They each spoke for about 5-7 minutes answering the questions of from whence the design had come, how it had touched them personally and what they thought about it now as it related to their entire body of work.This was after a meaningfully long cocktail hour and it still rates as one of my most favorite experiences in my entire life.Pecha Kuchas indeed!

      1. Guest

        Damn, YOU impress me Jeff. My Dad was an architect and these names have a lot of mystique in my mind… having heard them a lot while growing up…

    2. Guest

      Interesting comment. A few weeks ago I heard something along the same lines from the Director of the Washington Public Health Alliance. They organize these events, which are basically mixers: no powerpoints, no audience vs podium divide… Apparently they are a huge success.

  34. Jan Schultink

    A panel = lazy conference preparation.You can’t “wing” presentations. Have a great story. Prepare well. Then you can be “spontaneous”.

  35. Gianfranco Chicco

    As a conference organizer ( I try to avoid panels because most of them are boring or just not bringing something new to the table… thanks to the Internet the goals of a physical event have changed, the bar has been raised.When I do have to consider a panel, what I call Jessica Greenwood’s (deputy editor of Contagious magazine) filter: a panel should be “at least useful, at least relevant or at least entertaining”… and in some occasions have a “holy sh@t moment”.

  36. richus

    I recently attended a couple medical conferences over 5 days. By far the most interesting/education/entertaining format was the “Pro/Con debate” followed by Q&A. Everyone in the room had a side to take, so they felt engaged from the start.

  37. Jay Weintraub

    As the organizer of a conference, I read this post with great interest and trepidation. As the organizer of a conference mentioned in Mark’s post, it’s the closest I’ve come to being mentioned by Fred :)From an organizer’s perspective, I’m thankful for all the feedback. we’re not trying to bore you, and we know that people do not always share the depth of knowledge desired by the audience. It is hard to find those who can deliver insightful and actionable presentations or talks that don’t come across too self-promotional. And, from a time standpoint, panels unfortunately lower the threshold for people to participate. The big question people like me have is how to get more questions out of the audience. At shows large and small that I’ve done the hardest part is getting those in attendance to take the question risk.Tereze, Mark E, and Mark S, great input. Thanks EJN.

    1. msuster

      I thought LeadsCon was great, Jay. I will be back again if you’re have me! But I do think the panel format could improve. I’d be happy to help with ideas if you ever want to speak about it. But great crowd, great conversations in the hallways and all around high value. Thank you for making the lead generation business the legitimate industry it needs to become.

      1. Jay Weintraub

        How about an East meets West. You and Fred together?

        1. fredwilson

          it won’t be a panel. It will be a conversation

          1. Jay Weintraub

            I hope that could be a yes to having you both together…for aconversation.

          2. fredwilson

            Subject to travel and schedules, it is

  38. martykelly

    Refreshing – no many panel and promotion – more insight and content – I agree Fred

  39. martykelly

    Refreshing post Fred – I agree – more content and insight – less promotion

  40. Brandon Klein

    A bit of self promotion- but Collaboration King has been saying this for years- but we go one step further and share how to improve Panel Discussions:

  41. Aruni S. Gunasegaram

    I like panels because to me the other panelists and the audience trigger ideas for me in real time. I sat on a panel earlier this week on the topic of Resilient Startups during the week long RISE event for entrepreneurs that goes on in Austin every year. It was held at Tech Ranch in an intimate living room like setting. The audience was conversing with us in real time.I’ve also organized several panels and been the moderator. I think how good a panel is also depends on the moderator’s skills.

  42. David Rogers

    Your prescription for what an interactive conference discussion sounds just like what we are presenting at Columbia University’s BRITE ’10 conference, March 31-April 1. (http://www.briteconference….I’m sorry you could not join us this year, Fred.I hope you will be able to share your insights with our audience in the future!

  43. enrolled agent exam

    I definitely agree with the point about over-promoting. I feel like so many people think any publicity is good publicity– but sometimes, when people hear about something too much, their brains just shuts off. Case in point: Watch an episode of Project Runway sometime and try and count how many times you see or hear a shameless plug for Garnier. There must be seventy per episode, and I’ve yet to develop a strong desire to run out and purchase some Fructis.

  44. Tereza

    good for you! less so for the audience! (unless the facilitator is diabolical in a good way — and gets you guys to argue with each other. then it gets FUN!)

  45. Tereza

    Andy we could do a “Comment Slam”, where you stand up and read off a randomized selection of Swantastic blog comments, to a low-pitch background of free-form jazz and a two-drink minimum.I would pay to see that.

  46. Mark Essel

    Pick a conference, I’ll interview you and it’ll be great fun for the visitors. Next year or later this year is bettter for me

  47. andyswan

    As long as four quality bourbons make it to the stage, I’m in!

  48. Mark Essel

    I’m working on setting up some video interviews over the next few weeks, if you’d like to try out a remote video interview about your latest work maybe we can work it in our scedules.I’ve got to get a location and camera setup in Manhattan for a few interviews (worst case I can do interviews at peoples offices/work areas).My soapboxHttp://

  49. Mark Essel

    There may be a way to get a couple of talking heads in skype or the like (I’ve seen it on Not a bad backup if you want to share some thoughts/describe your startup.