When you are speaking on a panel, you sit on stage with a number of different people who are sharing the stage with you. This could be difficult for some because as a speaker, you have the motto “always be closing” in your mind. You want to stand out from the crowd so you can get the attention of potential customers in the crowd. You may be sitting on a panel with others who are considered subject matter experts on a topic. I’ve sat on these panels and it can get quite uncomfortable when you feel like everyone is trying to “one up” your answers to questions. I have worked on a few tips and tricks for working on panels.
Everyone on the panel discuss what their experience is with the topic at hand. If everyone talks about their personal experience, you wouldn’t have to “one up” each other on the panel. This also gives the moderator questions to ask each panelist about their personal experience with the topic. Sharing what your personal experience is with the topic allows panelist to give a genuine answer without fluff.
Have the moderator set rules for everyone. A good panelist knows how to control the conversation. Before the panel actually begins, the moderator can inform panelists that they have 2 minutes to answer a question. To be fair to the panel the moderator can assign an equal amount of questions to each panelist. This eliminates the “you only asked me 2 questions” conversation.
Have a name tag or placard with your name on it. Panels can be a lot of information for the audience. An audience member may want to ask you questions but they may not remember your name. At the end of a panel, people will swarm the panelists and the audience member who really wanted to connect with you won’t get the chance to. So be sure to wear a name tag, have a placard with your name on it, or have your name and bio on the agenda for the event.
Do not be afraid to say you don’t know. The most important thing that I’ve learned about panels is it’s OK to pass on a question. Someone may ask you a question that is better suited for another member of the panel. This is why I think it’s important for you to know your fellow panelists. “I don’t think I can answer that question, however panelist #2 has experience with that” is a great way to deflect the question but still give the audience member the answer they were looking for. In return, the panelist may send a question from an audience member over to you to answer.
Your first time speaking on a panel can be scary, intimidating, and exciting all at the same time! Make sure you shine on stage, but also make sure others shine as well. I love panels because they test your ability to give an answer in usually 3 minutes. Sometime in the professional speaking world less is more. Leave your audience members wanting more and bookings may come after your panel.