Good likelihood you’ll be asked to be a panelist if this hasn’t already occurred.  So how do you prepare to deliver optimally?  Here are thirteen tips to get you started:

  1. Know who your moderator is going to be and participate in a planning call that is usually scheduled in advance.
  2. Send the moderator either your introduction or your biography.  If the audience is going to hear about your background then it’s best to write an introduction. Conversely, if the audience is going to read about you, then a biography is best.  An introduction is written differently than a biography.
  3. Find out about your co-panelists with respect to the topic being discussed.  The more you know the more you can participate.
  4. Determine what your goal is for the audience and write it out so that you have an anchor for your speaking points.
  5. It’s ideal to have the panelists sit in a semi-circle as opposed to in a row.  This seating arrangement allows panelists to easily see one another.
  6. Feel free to disagree with what another panelist says as long as you do so politely.  It’s always more interesting for the audience when they hear a different or new perspective.
  7. When another panelist is speaking, look at that person and pay attention to what is being said.  This allows you to add information if appropriate.
  8. When you speak or respond to a question, look at the audience (vs. the moderator) so the audience feels included.
  9. Do not share or pass a microphone.  Each panelist should have his or her own microphone or it can be distracting.
  10. Give thought to ways in which you will engage your audience.  Keep in mind that attention spans are typically short.  Your goal is to help your listeners remember what  you’ve said.  You can achieve that by creating active vs. passive listeners. Consider using a prop, asking for a show of hands, a show of standing, having listeners fill-in-the blank with one word, or ask them to write something down.
  11. Practice hypothetical questions that may be posed to you.  Strive to answer succinctly so that you’re not longwinded and usurping the time of other panelists.
  12. Ensure that your listeners know how to easily reach you so they may follow-up with a question or comment.
  13. Adjust your schedule so you can stay longer once the panel concludes.  Rushing out to another event is not a good idea and defeats the idea of networking.

Being a panelist is an important aspect of public speaking.  You’ve been asked to be a panelist because you have valuable expertise to share.  Always remember that the panel is there for the audience, so give them what they came for.