How to prepare for a Panel of Discussion….

When compared with the nerve-wracking prospect of giving a lecture, participating on a panel may seem to be a safer option since you’re responding to targeted questions rather than monologuing. You need to change your mind because there are often hidden challenges when it comes to navigating panel discussions and leaving the audience in a rousing ovation.

Image ref: Eventbrite

Any panel of discussion at conferences or any gathering at all is a useful way to trigger an exchange of viewpoints among experts. This time around, the discussants or panellists can show up with prepared statements or speak from experience. Whether or not panellists agree on all issues, they can create an interesting discussion for the audience.

However, some panel sessions are uninspiring and plain boring. That’s because the panellists assembled haven’t been trained to be engaging presenters in this format.

So, what are some ways to make an impact as a panel participant and leave a great impression? Here are some ideas.

Connect with the moderator beforehand:

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It’s almost always possible for you to reach out to the moderator before the event as you’ll be able to prepare far more effectively if you understand how they intend to run the session. Do they have a list of questions already prepared, that they can share with you? Such information allows you to picture how the panel will run and prepare yourself in advance.

Research your other panellists:

Image ref: The Business Journals

Panel discussions are most lively when panellists can engage other panellists on topics that interest them. This is far easier to do if they actually know something about each other. Research their bios on LinkedIn and other social media accounts and learn about their background. If you make the panel pretty much of a dialogue, audience members will be much more likely to tune in and join the conversation.

Prepare like a keynote:

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If you want to present well, especially your opening remark, practice your speaking part as a keynote. Think through a compelling opening and closing statement, and write down the main points you want the audience to take away from your part of the panel. Try not to rehearse each word, the audience will notice and there will be a disconnect.

Arm yourself with stories:

Image ref: DisneyPlus

There is nothing as powerful as a good story. Storytelling is an important part of any presentation, yet are severely underused on panels. To be a good storyteller you need to be purposeful. Plan for them. When you have considered a concept or case study you want to present, structure it as a story.

Keep it succinct:

Image ref: Spark Email

One of the hardest aspects when it comes to managing panels is the allotment of time. Commonly, panellists will ramble on way past focus, giving extraneous details that take time away from a fresh topic. Some people tend to seize the floor greedily, while others sit back and wait to respond. Be conscious of how much time you’re taking on a panel. When you answer a question, make your point then stop.

Be energetic A to Z:

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Ideally, a panel should be enthusiastic, and even fun. Sit up with an engaged posture, even when you’re not holding the mic. When you do speak, project your voice, enunciate, and smile and connect with the audience. Stay in the game so you don’t repeat comments that others have already said.

It is important to note that if, you’re suffering at the hands of a monopoliser, do not to get cowed into silence or submission. It’s natural to wish the moderator would step in to help, of course, that is their job!  But if the moderator is untrained or ill-equipped, prepare mentally in advance for the possibility that you’ll need to assertively break into the conversation and own it.

By following these strategies, you can maximise the chances that your point of view will be heard and that your participation will be a success.

Do you have any question or comment? Do share with us in the comment section.

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