Sooner or later, you will be asked to be a member of a panel at a meeting or conference.
You’ll sit up front in front of an audience of some size. You’ll be asked to give your opinions to questions that the audience members or a moderator asks.
I get this chance every now and then. I’ve learned some things along the way that may help you.
Here’s how to be a great panelist.
1. Think of the questions you might be asked. Make a list and jot down some notes before you join the panel.
You don’t have to do as much preparation as you would for a speech, but you do have to get ready.
2. Never agree with another panelist. Don’t say, “I agree with Jo.” You got the invite because you have something to say, something to contribute. If you just agree with the person next to you, where is the added value that you bring? Even if you do agree, answer the question in another way.
3. Don’t hog the show. There are x number of other panelists. It’s not your show. You are not the main event. Make sure everyone has time to talk.
4. Talk to the audience. Whether the question comes from the audience or the moderator, answer the question looking at the audience, not just one person. At the end of your answer, you can look back at the moderator, but it’s better just to talk to the audience.
5. Answer the questions you are asked. Sounds so obvious, but too many panelists just go off on their own tangent. You’ll drive the audience crazy, like some politicians do, if you don’t answer the questions.
6. Shut off your cell phone and your computer. Another no-brainer, but I’ve been on panels where one of the panelists just opens up his computer and types away answering emails and then excuses himself from the panel to answer his phone. You’re there to do a job. Do it. You don’t have to show how important you are.
7. Don’t Plug Your Company or Yourself or Your Products. It’s a panel– not a trade fair and there’s a big difference. If you connect with people, they’ll want to know more about what you do. If you don’t connect, you’ll drive people further away by just plugging what you do.
7. Hang around after the panel. Don’t be in a rush to leave after the panel. Give yourself at least 15 minutes to talk with people-those who agree with you and those who disagree with you. If you’ve done your job well, there’ll be a line of people waiting to talk more with you.
8. Have fun. Enjoy it. You’ll meet new people, get your ideas out, most likely have some good coffee or a free meal-maybe more. Might as well enjoy it.