Pointers for Panel Presenters

You're a Panelist - Now What?

When you’re asked to be on a panel, your first thought might be, “Oh, that’s easy. I don’t have to prepare. I can just show up.” The truth is that like any presentation, preparation is key.

Before the Event
You’ve been chosen for the panel because of your knowledge about the topic. Now you need to do some digging! The more you know, the better you can serve. Here’s how to become a powerfully prepared panelist.

Connect with your moderator or host. Find out why they asked you to be on the panel. What’s their expectation? What are they hoping you’ll bring to the party? Who are your fellow panelists, and what do they bring? Many times the host will share with you the questions they plan to ask. You might be invited to share potential questions as well. As a speaker, you should answer questions you are knowledgable and passionate about.

Keep your audience in mind. Who will be there? How many? What do they know about the topic, and what would be helpful for them to know? What specific items would be good to highlight? What kinds of questions do you think the audience might ask, and which ones do you hope they don’t ask? Prepare answers for those tricky questions and practice them out loud.

Nail down the logistics. What’s the venue layout? What’s the format? Is it during a happy hour, a breakfast meeting, part of a larger event? Will someone introduce you – if so, you might need to give them material for that intro – or should you prepare a self-introduction? Are you expected to provide slides?

Practice. If you are expected to have a prepared piece and/or slides, practice just as you would for any presentation. Practice out loud with your slides and a timer. Save your slides as a PDF since that format is compatible with all projection systems. And when you get to the event, double-check that the slides and your remote clicker are working.

During the Event
Help Your Listeners. That’s your single task as a panelist. Here are some practical ways to help:

  • Bring energy.
  • If you’re sitting behind a table, sit on the edge of your chair, which brings your energy forward.
  • Use body language whether you are standing or sitting.
  • Talk with both the moderator and the audience, not just the moderator.
  • Keep the mic near your mouth; don’t wave it around. If the mic is on a stand, keep close to it so everyone can hear your pearls of wisdom!
  • If there’s a planned segment when you’ll be speaking solo, ask for a lapel mic. That type of mic will free you up to use body language and connect with your audience.
  • For Q&A, repeat the question so everyone hears it. If you aren’t quite sure what someone is asking, take the time to clarify.

It’s an honor to be part of a panel. Your knowledge and passion are being recognized as valuable for other people. Serve those people well by being a powerfully prepared panelist!

Graceworks Portland, Oregon

Tales from the Field

Tales from the Field

As I entered the room to begin a two-day training session with the Graceworks team, there was a sense of reluctant hesitation. Obviously, my colleagues and I were all in the room to become better presenters, but how far were we willing to go? After some initial hesitation, I forced myself to leave my comfort zone and just be me.

After the first day of training with Graceworks, I was energized. I left work, picked up my son from soccer practice, and got home to find my wife and other son playing basketball on our driveway.

My wife asked me a typical question: “How was your day?”

But instead of my typical one-word response (“good”), I let go with passion and emotion. I talked about my amazing day and all of the personal and professional things I learned about myself. I spilled my guts, exposed my splinters, and was vulnerable and personal with my delivery. I connected with my wife that evening on the driveway for over an hour.

My wife felt my energy and was in awe. At one point, she interrupted me with a jaw-dropping question: “Who are you? I haven’t seen this side of you since we first met!”

As I sat in the second day of interview training, I realized the magnitude of my wife’s question. I had succumbed to my fears and allowed my passion to dim – personally and professionally.

But that has all changed. Sure, the tools we were given from Graceworks are immeasurable and invaluable, but for me, it was so much more. I’m able to be me. I’m able to shine.

It’s going to take some practice, but our eyes are finally open to dream big and entertain the “what ifs” in our personal and professional careers. At the end of the day, to paraphrase a Maya Angelou quote, people won’t remember what you said or did, they’ll remember how you made them feel.

I pulled back the curtain and took a deep dive. I not only saw sides of my colleagues that I had never seen before, but I was able to let my passion, expertise and emotions shine through. I learned that if we accept who we are and go “big and bold” with our delivery, the sky’s the limit!

It’s up to us now to put our teachings into practice and become who we are destined to be.

Change is inevitable…Keep calm and swag on.

Brandon Biniker
Interior Designer/Senior Associate
Fanning Howey
Columbus, OH

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