As you get known for knowing your stuff, you’ll find that you’ll get invited to be a member of a discussion panel. These can be held at conventions, town halls, employee meetings, training programs and a variety of other functions.
Many think these are an easy way to ease into public speaking, for you are not standing there on stage all by yourself. But, because you’ll be sharing the stage with others … and more than likely one or more of them will have a strong, take-charge personality … there is an art to being an effective panelist. Use these strategies to leverage your spot on the panel into an opportunity to provide good information and communicate your personal brand.
Control your introduction.
Be sure to give the moderator or person introducing the panel a concise, accurate introduction. Don’t leave this up to fate!
Just because you aren’t the center of attention, doesn’t mean you can slack off. Arrive on time. Stay until the end. Pay attention to what other panelists are saying. Act engaged. Make sure you understand a question before rambling off an answer that could make no sense.
When you are invited to be a member of a panel, make sure you know the topic so you can adequately prepare. Figure out what questions members of the audience are likely to ask and prepare answers for them. Round up some relevant stories that are related to the topic. Prepare some good sound bytes that will help you be a memorable member of the panel.
Remember, you aren’t alone on the stage. Other panelists may have an answer to that question, as well. Don’t hog the stage with long-winded answers. Allow time for other panelists to add their two-bits, too.
Embellish your agreements.
If you are asked if you agree with another panelist, don’t leave your answer to “yes, I agree with my colleague.” Add in your own version of what he or she said. Own your answer.
Remember … there Is No “I” in “Team.”
A panel discussion is kind of like team public speaking. As a panel member, you are a member of that team. Act accordingly. Be attentive when others speak. Be respectful when referring to something they’ve said … even if disagreeing.
Bring as much energy to being a panel member as you would to being the sole speaker on the stage. Get enough sleep. Eat appropriately. Hydrate as necessary.
Even if you are not talking, always assume someone in the audience is still watching you and very well could be snapping a picture with their cell phone.
Always look at the audience.
Sometimes there is a moderator who will act as a proxy for the audience and ask questions submitted by them before hand. You may be tempted, because the moderator is the one who asked you the question, to look at him or her. Don’t do that. Always answer the question facing the audience … they are the ones who really asked the question.
Be sure to allow time after the panel discussion to answer questions. If you did a good job, you’ll probably have a line of people who would like you to elaborate on points you’ve made. Have a strategy for deftly deflecting people who want to monopolize your time by giving them a way to get their questions answered at a later date.