If you had told me five years ago that one day I would be asked to speak about business on a panel, I would’ve assumed you had the wrong Deborah. Today, I find myself not only doing so periodically, but in some lucky circumstances, have had the honor of moderating such panels. Along this short journey, I’ve already picked up enough pointers to author an advice column about the ins and outs of the panel appearance format.
If you aspire to be a discussion panelist, or already find yourself winging it in the panel arena, it helps to understand that there are many layers to the art of effectiveness when you’re in the spotlight. This article will take you through the six essential aspects of maximizing your panel opportunities. If you perfect these techniques for boosting your confidence and polishing your demeanor, you can also prepare to be asked back to speak again and again.
State Your Name
Strangely, it’s not unheard of for even an experienced panelist to forget to begin by stating their name, occupation and their relevance to the discussion. I don’t have to explain why it’s fundamental to the effectiveness of your contribution for the audience to know who you are and what company you represent. What I do have to stress it how important it is to remind yourself to tell them, first and foremost.
Ease On In
This one’s for the introvert in us all: It’s completely normal for you to be nervous as the panel discussion commences. My advice is to just accept this as human nature, and do your best not to let on about it. A good approach is to be mindful of your posture and breathing before you speak the first time around. Exhale deeply before you introduce yourself. If you can pull off a smooth opening, just watch how relaxed you suddenly become.
Mind Your Speech
As we’ve discussed before in our articles about “unspeakable speech”, it’s to your benefit to be conscious of your speech patterns and vocal delivery. When presenting to a group or audience, your message is in danger of being taken less seriously if awkwardly intoned. Make every effort to avoid uptalk, vocal fry, monotone speech, and swallowing your words.
Grow Into Your Space
As the discussion unfolds, take note of how long or short the other panelists’ answers are, and make sure you take your allotted time to speak your own answers. You’ve been asked onto the panel because it has been established that you have something important to add; Stay politely within bounds, but don’t be a pushover or shortchange yourself.
Remember: Many modern panel discussions take place from behind a table, rather than at a dais. This is your cue to dress comfortably, as you’ll be sitting down for a while. Ladies: Consider wearing slacks rather than a skirt, so you can focus on the discussion instead of being conscious of keeping your legs crossed.
One Last Simple Detail
As with all business gatherings, meetings and networking events, always have business cards on hand for after a panel discussion. When people approach you, it’s a nifty way of keeping the conversation going after everyone departs. Your card has the power to prompt folks to visit your website, read your blog, acquire your book, and hopefully engage in future dealings with you.