How to be a Good Panelist

Speaking on a panel may seem like an easy task, but it’s more than showing up and giving your opinion. It’s knowing your topic, being able to confidently answer questions, sharing your expertise, and being the best panelist you can be.

Here’s how:

Dress like a Pro

Speaking on a panel is the perfect opportunity to showcase your knowledge, share your experiences, and present yourself as a professional on the topic. However, if you show up in ratty jeans and an old t-shirt, no one is going to take you seriously. Instead, opt for a business casual unless the event states otherwise.

Prepare an Intro

The first thing people want to know is who you are, why you’re on the panel, and why they should listen to you. Answer their questions and establish your credibility with a smooth introduction!

Don’t be First

If the panel has a lineup, try to be second on the list. That way, you can speak to the current audience, any late attendees, and not have to worry about people getting restless near the end. Sometimes, second is best!

Grab their Attention

When it’s your turn to speak, grab their attention with a quote, statistic, visual, or statement that relates to your topic and can give your audience an idea of what’s to come. That way, you’ll generate interest and keep your audience engaged.

Who’s your Audience?

Speaking of your audience, if you know who you’re speaking to, you’ll be able to address their needs and answer their questions more efficiently. Try scouting out the event beforehand to get an idea of the general makeup of your audience.

Involve the Audience

Don’t let your segment be one-sided. Ask the audience questions, use their responses, and let them guide your topic. That way, they’ll feel like part of the team.

Communicate Well

This is a speaking engagement, so communication is key! Try to avoid rambling off-topic, using filler words, or creating overly-long pauses. Remember: clarity and conciseness are your two best friends when speaking at a timed event.

Be Engaged with the Panel

If you’re part of a group panel, don’t check out when the spotlight isn’t on you. Listen to your fellow speakers, support their segments, and keep the audience engaged by paying attention to their messages as well.

Have Fun!

Speaking on a panel is a great honor, but it’s also a time to show off, network, and- most importantly- have fun with other members of your field!

What NOT to Do

The following video is from March 31, 2o23. I was a panelist on the “Life after NSU” panel, and I was supposed to talk about writing life and careers after graduating with a Creative Writing degree.

I didn’t know these tips at the time, and you can tell with awkward ramblings and long pauses. If you have to speak on a panel any time soon, I hope you learn from my mistakes and use these tips to become the best panelist on the roster!

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