Thursday, June 28, 2012


By Amy Fond / Cameron Communications Inc.

I recently trained a banking executive to appear on a panel discussion at a financial convention abroad. Her big concern through-out the training was that she didn't really want to be in the spotlight. The solution? Don't be a panelist.

Being on a panel is all about being in the hot seat. You’re not only interacting with fellow panelists, the audience is constantly watching you -looking for your reaction and how you handle yourself. So how can you make a lasting, positive impression? Here’s just some of what we recommend for success if you’re going to be part of a panel.


Don’t leave it up to someone else to pick out what’s important from your past. Write your own introduction and give it to the moderator. Make sure to include what you’ll be adding to the panel and why people should listen  to what you have to say. Be prepared as well to give a short introduction on the topic. Most times moderators will allow panelists fives minutes each on the agenda. Often speakers will go over, so if you’re last, have a condensed version you can easily sub-in if your time is shortened.


While others are speaking - take notes. It will be keep your hands busy so you don’t fidget or look nervous and gives you a place to focus. Taking notes will also prevent your mind from wandering when it isn’t your turn and keep you centered on the conversation. Nod or shake your head in response while listening to other speakers so you appear engaged and reactive, and at times pan the audience to see how they’re reacting to what’s being said.


No one wants to watch four panelists all agree with each other. It’s boring! So think of how you can contrast your views with those of your fellow panelists. Research their opinions and point of view before the event. Google them to see if there are any videos of how they speak in public and what they’ve said in the past. Then find ways that you can differ and how you can support your arguments.  Having a contrasting angle will make you more memorable. What’s the point of being on a panel if no one remembers what you said?


Truth is people really only care about what effects them. If you can’t get your audience to care about what you’re saying – you’ll lose them. Figure out the “What’s In It For Me” and what value you can provide to those attending the panel. Tell stories to help make your point so people become more engaged. Spell out how you can help them and why your point of view is important. Making people think that if they don’t listen they’ll lose out – will make you more valuable.


Chances are the audience will want to speak with you after the panel discussion.  A larger crowd means you made a good impression. Be prepared. After the panel, position yourself in a high traffic location. Let people come to you. Wear something distinctive so people know to look for the “woman in the purple shirt.” Have business cards ready and use the one on one time to reinforce your key messages. 

Appearing on a panel is more than just discussing a topic you know about. To be a good panelist you need to listen, engage and offer your expertise. Putting time into preparing will help you be impactful and most importantly valuable to the audience.

June 2012


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