Congratulations, you’ve been invited to appear on a panel! This invitation is proof that you are considered an expert in your field and that your thoughts, opinions and experience are of value to the organizer of the event. But how many of us have been in the audience for a ho-hum, brain-numbing panel discussion? Trust me, it doesn’t have to be that way.
Here are 10 quick tips that will ensure you are never boring, but instead: the BEST panelist.
- Ask about the venue & the stage
Is this panel an intimate experience for a small group of people or are you appearing in a ballroom/convention center space? Will you be seated behind a table or on a high-back chair? Ladies: take note of this and dress accordingly. It is not easy to climb onto a chair in a short dress.
- Request the moderator’s questions in advance
Sometimes this is possible and sometimes it is not. When you receive the questions, prepare by studying them and think about what unique angle you could take on your answer. DO NOT memorize your answer. If you do, you will not sound authentic.
- Be authentic
You have been asked to be a panelist because you are an expert and the audience wants to hear your opinion. Be conversational, reveal yourself to the audience.
- The microphone is your friend
Don’t be afraid of the microphone. It is there to amplify your voice so that everyone can hear you, even in the back of the room. Be sure to wear a jacket or dress with a lapel so that a small lavaliere microphone can be easily placed there. If you are given a handheld microphone or if a stationary mic is placed before you, be sure to keep it within a fist distance of your mouth at all times when you are speaking.
- Know your audience
One of my favorite coaching tips is: who am I talking to and why should they care? The answer to this central question will shape and color all your answers.
- Be aware of body language
Be an observer of human nature. Watch the moderator’s body language and be mindful of your own. First impressions are everything. Within five seconds, you are being sized up by the audience and your fellow panelists by how you walk on stage, your posture, your eye contact, how you sit, your gestures/facial expressions and how well you listen.
- Listen & Engage
Very often we are so focused on what we want to say that we don’t listen to what others are saying. Listen with intention and engage in the conversation. Sometimes another panelist will say exactly what you wanted to say and that means you will need to edit your answer, or simply agree with them. Practice self-control by resisting the need to repeat what has already been said, just to get your point across. This serves no purpose and is perceived as boring to the audience.
- Tell a story!
If you want to get someone’s attention, just tell a story to which they can relate. Everything is a story, even sales statistics! Science has shown that, when we tell a story that resonates with the listener, neural coupling occurs, our brains secrete dopamine and a connection is made.
- Bring your energy
Energy is contagious to those around us. It is palpable. You can bring your energy into the conversation with something as simple as a smile or a gesture.
- You are what you wear
The truth is that we are judged by how we look, so dress the part. Don’t just show up; stand out. You are representing your company and your personal brand. Avoid clothing with patterns because they cause issues with video cameras and IMAG screens. Ladies: more make-up, please! Consider having your hair and make-up done by a professional so that you feel extra put together and confident. There are always pictures taken of panelists before and after the event, so be sure to arrive “camera ready”.
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