So you’ve been asked to speak on a panel… To some that may feel daunting or to others it may feel invigorating and flattering, but no matter how you feel, your participation will be directly influenced by how prepared you are. Speaking on a panel requires a different skill set than simply presenting to an audience solo, and putting in a bit of time will make you feel more confident when you walk onto the platform. Our team has some experience both participating in panels and moderating them, so we’ve rounded up some tips and tricks on how to put your best foot forward for your first panel speaking event.
Memorize Your Elevator Pitch
Participating in a panel is just as much a networking opportunity for you and your company, as it is a learning experience for the audience. If you’re asked to introduce yourself, you better hope that you know how to briefly and eloquently talk about your experience and current position. Many business owners or budding entrepreneurs may have not rehearsed their personal story enough times to present it on the fly. Practice in the mirror if you have to in order to make sure you know your brand well enough by the time you’re in front of the audience.
Do Your Research
Even if you’re not presented with the questions ahead of time, just like with an interview, you can still plan out some answers or important talking points that are relative to the topic of the panel. Even if none of the topics you’ve researched come up in the discussion, it will still give you the peace of mind and confidence ahead of the panel.
Learn About The Other Panelists
Knowing who’s sitting by your side will help a lot with calming your nerves and driving the conversation. If you’re able to find out their names and backgrounds, greeting the rest of your panelists will feel more natural. Additionally, you’ll know if there are any major controversial topics to avoid discussing in the event that someone on the panel has a differing viewpoint that could result in them taking offense or a negative atmosphere on the panel.
If you get to the event early you’ll have the opportunity to meet the moderator, get settled, secure a water bottle and perhaps even get a sneak peek of the questions ahead of time. If you’re struggling with any pre-panel nerves, arriving early will help you feel more comfortable leading into the event. If you have any other like-minded panelists, it will also be an opportunity to network and learn more about the other panelists.
Don’t Monopolize The Conversation
From an audience perspective, there’s nothing worse than attending a panel that’s monopolized by one person who is particularly chatty or opinionated. As a panel participant, it’s important to be respectful and let each panelists’ voice be heard, especially if you can tell they are already not as outspoken. Even if it means biting your tongue, give way to other panelists so that the conversation stays well-rounded.
… But Don’t Be Shy!
If you’re on the other end of that spectrum and would prefer to hide in the shadow of the more outspoken panelists, don’t! You were asked to speak on this panel for a reason and the audience wants to hear your input just as much as the person next to you. Know that you’re adding value every time you put your two cents in and don’t be afraid to speak up.
Anticipate Questions From the Audience
At the end of a panel event, it’s common to open the room up to questions from the audience. This is a great opportunity for networking and connecting with the people at the event. If an audience member asks a question that you don’t feel comfortable answering or don’t know the answer to, that’s OK! Simply be transparent and allow for another panelist to jump in if they have an answer instead.
The more panels you’re asked to speak on, the more comfortable you’ll be with the process. As with any new experience, it can feel intimidating at first, but if you put these tips into practice you’ll feel more confident going in. One final way to get better at panelist speaking opportunities is to sit on the other side, both in the audience and as a moderator. If you’re ever presented with the opportunity to either attend or moderate a panel, take it! It will make you a better speaker in the long run.
Story By: Sophie Duncan