The Newlywed Game: How to Run Amazingly Interactive Panel Sessions

Martina Cicakova

If done right, panel sessions can become the highlight of your event. If not, they can turn the audience into a restless mass looking at their watch. Gainsight’s customer success conference Pulse 2018 found the perfect recipe for a panel that will pull people in and enliven your next event.

Take an interactive game show concept. Add to the mix one excellent moderator, two pairs of expert speakers and four marker pens and display cards. Voilà.

Inspired by the American game show The Newlywed Game, the session, “What Your Board Wants You to Know About Customer Success,” stood out for its creative, interactive design, which kept the attendees actively involved throughout.

Here is a quick summary on why this format worked so well and how you can replicate it at your event.

Speakers on stage in a game show-inspired panel session at Pulse 2018.
Speakers on stage in a game show-inspired panel session at Pulse 2018. Credits: Gainsight

The session format

Panel sessions often leave the listener passive by default. And let’s be honest: it can be hard to stay focused while watching a group of people talking with each other.

To get people to tune in, the organizers swapped the traditional passive listening format for an engaging game show-like set up. The design repeatedly pulled the attendees into the conversation and kept them involved until the end.

The premise of The Newlywed Game show is to give couples revealing question rounds to determine how well the spouses know or do not know each other. Based on this concept, the session’s aim was to compare two perspectives on a series of questions.

The panel consisted of a moderator and four speakers – two VCs and two CEOs, who took turns answering the moderator’s questions. The purpose was to demystify what goes on in board meeting discussions about customer success and compare views from two different sides of the table.

To make the session more interactive, they used Slido to get an additional third perspective from the audience. By letting the attendees answer the same questions as the speakers through live polls, the organizers actively involved the attendees as the third voice in the discussion.

Word cloud live poll during interactive panel session at Pulse 2018.
Word cloud poll comparing the audience’s opinion with the panelists’ answers. Credits: Gainsight

The result

The format helped the organizers keep the attendees’ brains active throughout the session, especially as people’s attention tends to wane at the end of a conference day.

Using polls stimulated the audience to focus on the topic and think about a question before they heard the answers from the experts on stage. It was an effective way to pull them into the discussion and enhance their learning process.

And the proof? The session achieved a remarkable level of engagement with over 300 audience votes on some of the poll questions.

Live poll during the interactive panel session at Pulse
Multiple choice poll with amazing 317 votes in during the panel session. Credits: Gainsight

How Pulse ran the session

During the session, the moderator flashed up one question at a time on the screen and asked one pair of speakers to prepare their answers. The same question was activated as a live poll for the audience to vote through Slido.

While the audience voted, the speakers wrote their individual responses on huge cards but kept the answers hidden. Once enough audience votes had come in, there was a “big reveal” of both the poll results displayed on the screen and the panelists’ views.

The moderator commented on the poll results. Informed by the audience’s views, each panelist was then prompted to elaborate on his or her answers.

At the end, the other pair of speakers shared their reactions to what had been said. It was a powerful way to give the audience a real-world scoop from both sides of the table.

Do you want to see how it looked in practice? Watch this video recording from the session. (The explanation of the session format starts at 1:42):

How you can do it at your conference

  1. Invite two pairs of expert speakers with complementing views on a topic.
  2. Instruct the moderator to pose a question to one pair and invite both speakers to write their answers on big display cards.
  3. Activate the same question as a poll for the audience.
  4. Display the poll result on the screen and ask the panelists to reveal their answers.
  5. Get the moderator to comment on the result and ask the panelists to elaborate.
  6. Invite the other two speakers to share their perspectives and compare the views.


Get the attendees involved in your next panel session.

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