Why Game Shows Won't Replace Panels

Seemed like a brilliant idea at the time: Rather than moderate a typical panel, I elected to host a game show, calling it Facebook Faceoff. Mix things up. Wake up the crowd on Captiva. We were, after all, the first panel up after the keynote speaker -- a usually dreaded spot during which email is checked and energy wanes. 

So why not hit the audience with a little Jeopardy/Match Game/You Bet Your Life-inspired razzle-dazzle? Well, while it all seemed to work out okay in the end, here are five reasons why the game show format won’t replace panels any time soon (but probably should). 

Your audience will really have to pay attention

Having sharp “contestants” who were fully prepared to express a point of view in 90 seconds or less led to startling levels of succinctness. For example, Lucy Jacobs of Spruce Media made the unembellished case for being a Facebook Strategic Preferred Marketing Developer by noting: “We get advanced insights into their [Facebook] roadmap and work with Facebook on Alphas and Betas [which in turn helps our clients] get ahead of the curve.” Ten points for Lucy’s pith! 



Good answers don’t equal good tweets

At social media conferences, generally, the speaker who offers the cleverest turn of phrase that can be tweeted and retweeted is often the one who gets the most acclaim. But to deliver cogent arguments for why being “just” a PMD is not really a problem for either Resolution Media or Optimal, contestants Eric Barth and Patrick Toland needed a few more than 140 characters. Ultimately, both made highly persuasive cases that fellow contestant Chris Smith of Bank of America praised as being “on the money.”

Marketing pros are competitive

In a typical panel, the participants tend toward the congenial, politely nodding when a good point is made. In the game show format, when reputations and prizes are at stake (yes, there were prizes), the competitive nature of marketing professionals flashes like Vanna White’s irrepressible smile. Jacobs, Barth and Toland each presented their best Facebook case histories like battling knights, throwing down the gauntlet with proof of ROI -- a prize Smith declared to be “the holy grail.”

Alex Trebek has it easy

The surprising truth of being a game show host is that it is really hard to pull off if your audience isn’t pumped up for the show. Needless to say, the attendees at the Social Media Insider Summit had no idea what to expect when the theme song for Match Game started playing and I began my over-enthusiastic intro. That said, as the show went on, the crowd did warm up and even applauded enthusiastically when contestant Smith said the secret word, “Zuckerberg,” and earned a limited edition “Billionaires are Overrated” t-shirt. 

There’s nothing funny about Facebook

Most game shows count on humor to carry the day: Participants make fools of themselves and the MC pours on the wisecracks. In the case of Facebook Faceoff, the contestants were too on their game to slip up, especially during the “So What’s New?” portion, when each championed one of four new areas: Retargeting FBX, Facebook Search, Custom Audience and Mobile App Install. As for witty repartee from this MC, I gave it my all by concluding: “Like it or not, Facebook is not a game played lightly.”

Final Note

Lucy Jacobs, Erica Barth, Patrick Toland and Chris Smith were incredibly good sports to agree to the game show format in the first place, and you should be so lucky to have panelists as well prepared as these four, should you find yourself in the role of moderator anytime soon. Just in case you want to see the game show for yourself, it is memorialized here:

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