At the moment we have more potential speakers than speaking slots and I have already created a back-up list in case one or other speakers suddenly ducks out. There will be ten speakers in all, two of whom are elected representatives. Getting a diverse range of speakers is key but also quite a headache.
For example we have a trade union rep willing to speak about low wages and poor working conditions in some of the large scale retail outlets, but we don’t yet have anyone from the Penzance business community in order to ensure balance. To stress, this is not about adversarial debate or putting people on the spot. A business rep would have a chance to explain the pressures on local businesses, some of whose owners struggle to pay themselves a living wage – a point forcefully made to me by one Penzance business owner in private.
Session 1 will have just one speaker. Sessions 2, 3 and 4 will each have three speakers with each speaker speaking for ten minutes only. This will be followed by 20 minutes Q and A. That takes up roughly an hour followed by a break.
The aim is not to overload people. If we had one speaker speaking for half an hour, there is always the danger of information overload or just plain boredom. Shorter presentations by different speakers keeps the interest going and also introduces different perspectives on the same issue. The 20 minute Q&A and discussion makes it more interactive and hopefully allows everyone a chance to speak or ask a question.
Session 1 only has one speaker for the simple reason that we need to allow time for the panel members to settle in, get to know each other, familiarise themselves with the agenda and air any questions or concerns they have.
Session 5 will be wholly given over to discussion and debate among the panel members themselves and what they have heard. They will have a chance to review any recommendations or proposals put to them by the different speakers and either endorse their proposals – or not. They are also free to come up with their own proposals or policy recommendations based on what they have learned through listening and debate. Some will also likely have real experience of the issues under discussion, so this is not just about listening to policy experts and elected representatives but drawing on the lived experience of panel members.