Why I hate panels, in a nutshell

Johnnie Moore

Johnnie Moore

I’m Johnnie Moore, and I help people work better together

I’m not a fan of BBC’s Question Time although this week’s was more than averagely entertaining.

There was a moment which captures why I don’t like it and why I dislike panel formats at conferences and elsewhere. Much as I like Shirley Williams she lets slip how the show makes the panellists believe they are superior to the audience. It’s why I think this format is basically “peasant participation”: ostensibly about democracy, it really keeps the rest of us in our place.

If you watch it on iPlayer (sorry, may not work outside UK), it’s the little segment from 34m15s to 34m50s. A slightly nervous audience member makes a point, and Shirley Williams replies. Off camera, as she replies, he responds by raising his hand. This is the learned behaviour for audiences, showing due deference to the panel. Yet she rebukes him even for this small show of dissent: “Don’t put your hand up yet, I haven’t finished”.

That’s the trouble with panels. They evoke teacher trances and some tedious status play.

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