How to Own a Panel

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panel-discussionPanels often suck. The moderator may be weak, the panelists may be long-winded or dull, and the whole thing often ends up being a snoozefest.

Despite this, those who organize conferences and seminars love panels, so you are likely to end up on one at some point. If you are, follow the advice of Scott Berkun and Guy Kawasaki, both frequent panelists. Their advice can be boiled down into a couple of important points:

Be interesting and concise

Long-winded panelists are probably my least-favorite. Lawyers, of course, are often the worst offenders. If you say a lot with few words, you will leave your audience wanting more. If you drone on and on, you look like a ball hog and risk putting your audience to sleep.

Instead, consider your comments while the other panelists are off on another tangent. When it is your turn, say what you have to say in a few pithy sentences. If you did not say enough, even a bad moderator will prompt you for more, and the audience will pick up on his or her curiosity.

Never repeat

Time and again, one panelist after another will say “I agree with my colleague,” and then spend five minutes repeating everything that person just said. Do not do this. If you have nothing to add, come at the question or problem from a new angle, instead. Or just demur, and wait for another, hopefully better, question.

Prepare, prepare, prepare

Preparation is key. Show up with at least three points you want to make for each of the issues that will be put to the panel. Know the background information, and do some research even if you are already an expert in this area.

You can never over-prepare for any presentation. Practice (and research) makes perfect.

Why panel sessions suck (and how to fix them) | Speaker Confessions
How to Kick Butt On a Panel | How to Change the World (via Small Firm Success)

(photo: mathplourde)

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  • Great tips, I wish I’d had this advice before I learned it the hard way