Public Program Model 3: Panel Discussion

Panel Discussion


A panel discussion is intended to provide participants with substantive insight into an issue from varying perspectives. Panelists may be drawn from different disciplines, political parties, and professional affiliations. The panel discussion program features three presenters, each speaking for 15 minutes. A question-and-answer period follows the panelists’ presentations. To close the program, each panelist is given 5 minutes for summary remarks.

Sample Agenda (90 minutes)

  • Start–15 minutes Introductions
  • 15–30 minutes Presentation from Panelist 1
  • 30–45 minute Presentation from Panelist 2
  • 45–60 minutes Presentation from Panelist 3
  • 60–75 minutes Questions and answers
  • 75–90 minutes Closing remarks
  • 90 minutes End

Target Audience

The panel discussion program might be marketed to, and the audience drawn from, scholars, teachers, professionals, civic organization leaders, students, and other persons interested in the panel discussion theme.

Site Ideas

Sites for a panel discussion might include schools, colleges or universities, libraries, community centers, government buildings, museums, plazas, and religious centers.

Continuing the Discussion

There are many opportunities for audience engagement in a panel discussion. Before the public program, consider using a website, email, or social media outlets to pose key questions to potential participants or publicize relevant hashtags. Circulate suggested readings and invite questions directed to particular panelists. During the panel discussion, use raised hands or electronic keypads to poll audience members’ opinions about key issues or possible answers to questions. Allow members of the audience to ask questions once the panelists have finished their presentations. Offer a standing microphone at which audience members might line up with questions, or pass a hand-held microphone around the room. After the discussion is over, collect evaluations from all audience members. Consider directing everyone to a website or social media outlet to continue the discussion.


Civility and Free Expression in a Constitutional Democracy is funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities under the Bridging Cultures initiative. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Bar Association, or any of its program partners.