Speaking on a Panel? Expertly Prepare with These Best Practices from the Pros

speaker panel tips for professional speakers

Not all media panels are created equal.

But they’re an important avenue for audiences to connect with you, beyond reading your stories and following on social media.

Consumers want to learn about your experience in the media industry. And, as niche topics have increased, so has the demand for print journalists, bloggers, YouTubers, and influencers to share their stories.

Hispana Global Founder and CEO Jeannette Kaplun says her experience has been positive and beneficial.

“It helps position you as a leader in your field and provides invaluable networking opportunities,” Kaplun says.

Here are some tips on what to do before, during, and after a panel presentation.

BEFORE YOU SAY YES

Do your homework on the event.

Research the host and its past events and panels, moderator information, and marketing/promotion materials. Also, determine the event’s sponsors and see if there are any potential conflicts or concerns.

From there, you can decide whether this would be a good fit.

“Remember it’s your face, voice, and reputation that will be associated with the event,” Kaplun says. “We forget that others might see our presence at an event as an implied endorsement, so be careful whom you associate with.”

Ask for questions in advance. This will help you prepare visuals, case studies, or other relevant material.

“If you know the main questions and your subject matter, you will be fine,” she says.

GETTING READY TO SPEAK

Prepare your talking points and use them as a guide.

“You should base your talking points on real-world experience, failures and successes are what people will remember,” says Rosemary Ravinal, a corporate communications counselor and media trainer who specializes in multicultural and Latin American media.

Always keep your audience in mind and adjust your content accordingly.

Ravinal also suggests including a handful of short, tweetable takeaways in your presentation. “These should be tools and ideas people can use right away to do their work better,” she says.

If you’re able to present supplemental material, use quality visuals and always have a back-up plan in the event of technical difficulties.

Finally, rehearse your presentation either with a small group to provide feedback or record yourself.

“Looking and sounding good matters, but the reason people come to a conference or workshop is seldom about looking at pretty people — it’s to get information that will help them do their jobs better,” Ravinal says.

THE DAY OF THE PANEL 

Arrive early to familiarize yourself with the panel setup, says Ravinal.

Make sure your name is spelled correctly on presentation materials and name tents, and check your station.

Keep a bottle of water on hand, do a mic check, and adjust your chair or stool for comfort and height. Dress nicer than you would for work; sit straight up and be confident.

If possible, do a dry run of your slides. Then, mingle with the other panelists and audience.

“Take the pulse of the event,” Ravinal says. “If time allows, attend other sessions of the conference to get into the flow.”

Before the panel kicks off, Kaplun suggests doing a quick news check. “Check the news and social media trending topics in case there are last minute examples or situations that might be relevant,” she says.

IT’S GO TIME 

Once the panel has started and it’s your turn to speak: Take your time.

Periodically scan the room to make eye contact with your audience, says Ravinal. This is an important opportunity to brand yourself to a key audience.

Kaplun and Ravinal also emphasize sticking to your allotted time. Listen carefully to the other panelists and allow them to finish.

If the conversation goes off topic, it’s up to the moderator to reel them in. Kaplun says if there’s no moderator, “feel free to bring back the conversation to the topic. Your audience will appreciate it.”

Also, stay in the moment and avoid live tweeting during the panel discussion. It’s important to concentrate on the messages of the other panelists and add your point of view to the conversation.

But, do periodically check the conference hashtag to see what’s resonating with the audience, Kaplun says.

AFTER IT’S ALL SAID AND DONE

Don’t leave your audience hanging.

Remember to provide all of your contact information in case the audience has follow-up questions or other feedback.

You may gain some valuable business contacts, says Kaplun.

Use social media to stay connected with your audience after the event. Host a follow-up Q&A on Twitter, or take a group selfie and post it as a fun way to further embrace the attendees.

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Jessica Alas is Multicultural Audience Director at PR Newswire. Follow her at @alasjessica.

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