Panel discussion

I am typing this while sitting on a panel about visualization. The first of five panelists is currently speaking, and I will be the last of five.

As it happens, we are a very diverse crew, with very different backgrounds and areas of expertise. Between us we cover government, science, education, and virtual reality. And I think that’s a good thing.

There is an argument to be made for organizing panels around some evocative starting word (in this case “visualization”) and finding the most diverse group of people you can find to speak to that topic. For one thing, this structure will discourage any individual speaker from approaching their subject in any way that is too narrow or focused on fellow experts.

But more than that, it is a great way to engage an audience, to discover and perhaps to create surprising connections between fields. In short, when choosing panelists for a panel discussion, there is something to be said for going broad.

And, of course, choosing a good starting word.

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