So You’ve Been Asked to Be a Panelist

Whether your next engagement is your first or fiftieth, make an impact with the audience and follow our four tips to panel-perfection

You’re due to be a panelist, and, congratulations! An invitation equals a conference organizer who thinks you have something valuable to share with your industry. We’ve quizzed our CEO and rounded up our tried-and-true tips for panels (if only so you can prove your organizer right).


Nervous? You’re not alone

Studies show that 74% of people suffer from speech anxiety – so it’s fine if you’re less-than-thrilled to appear on your panel. Gain confidence from the fact that you’re there as an expert – not a lot of people can fill that chair.


Know your stuff, but don’t over prepare

Let us slightly contradict our own advice: you’re an expert, but people aren’t expecting rigid facts and figures from you. Our CEO Lisa Bragg says: “Usually, organizers give you questions in advance, but don’t hold tight to memorizing any answers.” In lieu of memorization, “just know what stories you have to help illustrate the point. Most often, the questions are more of a guide to get you thinking about the themes of the conversation.” As Lisa advises, panels are conversations, so listen to your fellow panelists and respond to, (politely) counter, and build off of their statements.


Break the boredom

Even the most engaging conversation can lose audience interest – they’re watching, and not participating. Keep the audience from checking their email by involving them in the discussion. Even a simple question like “Did any of you go to the movies last month?” encourages hand-raising or a nod of the head, and will pull the audience’s attention back to you.


Leverage your business opportunity

Whether you’re being paid a speakers’ fee or donating your time, the real value of appearing on a panel is the chance to leverage your business and personal brand. Lisa says, “I often give a big shout-out to the crowd via social media before and after being on a panel. It’s a chance for the audience to connect earlier and gives my contact information if someone wants to follow up.”

During the panel itself, make the most of a room full of potential clients and make sure to invite the crowd to come and speak to you “at the break.” Those who were most interested in what you had to say are now warm leads, with whom you’ll get direct facetime. While you should aim to make connections, Lisa adds: “Don’t ever try to sell anything from the stage. It’s the kiss of death for your audience – they’ll quickly tune you out.”


Have your own tips for panelists? Share them with us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn @MediaFace.


Illustration by MediaFace’s Jacquelyn McColl.

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