Be A Rock Star Panelist

Being invited to speak on a panel is a golden opportunity, a wonderful way to demonstrate your expertise and ability to think on your feet. Being on a panel is an excellent marketing technique and it can also be fun. There is an art to it, though, and if you want to be invited to participate a second time, make sure that you look good the first time.

1. Know the subject

You’ve been invited to join the panel to share your deep knowledge and experience and/or your intriguing and compelling perspectives regarding the subject matter. You are there to inform and enlighten the audience. Do not disappoint. If you do not possess the expertise, then you must decline the invitation, regardless of how wonderful the opportunity is.

2. Control your introduction

One week before your appearance, confirm details with the program organizer and send a three sentence bio that should be forwarded to the panel moderator. As a precaution, print out a copy and hand it to the moderator before taking your seat.

3. Speak up and speak clearly

Veteran speakers say that the optimal distance between your lips and the microphone is one inch. Lean in (but don’t hunch over) and speak clearly.

4. Entertain and inform

As with a program keynote speaker, a panelist is there not only to inform, but also entertain. A bored audience tunes out. Witty sound-bytes work wonders. Sprinkling in a few makes you look smart and you will be remembered by those in the audience.

5. Tell the outrageous truth

Prepare yourself for a tough, possibly embarrassing, question from the moderator. Fear not, because this is a good thing. You will then have the opportunity to be gutsy and funny, and show the audience that you are a straight shooter. Tell the outrageous truth, especially when it’s obvious. If the question is that scary, plead the fifth amendment and let the audience laugh with you.

6. KISS—Keep it short and simple

Real experts know how to boil complex issues down to their essence and give answers and explanations that can be readily understood by non-experts. Avoid tossing around technical jargon and you’ll look like the smartest person in the room and win the admiration of the audience.

7. Answer the question that you want to answer

Unless you feel that you must take the fifth, answer the question that was asked, but do not hesitate to take the discussion in a direction that lets you express your unique perspective, or demonstrate your expertise and experience. Give your answer and segue with “… but the real issue is… ”

8. Face the audience and not the moderator

It is tempting to face the person who asks the questions, but be mindful that s/he is not the audience, but the vehicle for posing questions that tease out information that audience members are presumed to want.

9. Never look bored

Active listening will help with this one. Looking engaged while another panelist is droning on, or resisting the reflexive action of making a face if someone says something that you find inaccurate or ridiculous, is perhaps the hardest part of being a panelist.

10. Listen to the other panelists

Being able to refer to something said by another panelist adds to the value of the information shared. If you want to politely refute a previous panelist, or add more information to a point that has been made (“… I think the real issue is… “), you’ll need to listen carefully. Jotting down a couple of notes is a good idea as well, to help you remember what was said and/or formulate your rebuttal.

11. Never agree with the other panelists (much)

Moderators frequently put the same question to every panelist, so that different perspectives on the question can be brought forth. The last speaker often will have nothing to add. Rather than stating that you agree with the previous panelists, with a smile, say “I believe the question has been answered.”

12. Know the other panelists

The organizer should tell you who else is on the panel. Internet search and find out their areas of expertise and what they may have written or said about the subject. You do not want any surprises and honestly, you want information that will help you look smarter.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Kim L. Clark is an external strategy and marketing consultant who brings agile talent to the for-profit and not-for-profit organization leaders with whom she works. Please visit http://polishedprofessionalsboston.com to learn how your organization can benefit when you work with Kim.

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