Three Ways To Be A Great Panelist On Stage

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I’ve had the absolute privilege to moderate and be a part of many panels and seminars across various industries and topics. Audiences get the chance to hear varied experiences, panelists get to bounce ideas and thoughts off one another, and all in all, it produces fantastic material at live events.

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Anna Roberts (on left) moderating a panel discussion at Entrepreneur ME's Achieving Women Forum

But this doesn’t happen by luck. As with all things in life, even if your job is to go up on stage and speak about your experiences, preparation is essential. Here are your three must do’s when you’ve been asked to sit on a panel at an event.

1. Communicate with the moderator or organizer. It's imperative that you understand what the purpose of the event is, and specifically how they hope your time on stage will benefit the audience. You may have your products and services you want to push, but moments like these mean exposure and leverage with panelists, and the event could be a bigger draw card for you and serve you better in the long run. You’ll know if you’re going to be mic-ed up or using a handheld microphone, what chairs you’ll be sitting on (ladies, watch out for short skirts on stage), and any other requirements they have for you.

2. Understand who you’re with on stage, and be transparent with your agenda. Speak with the person running the stage before you go live, and check they have your name and company, plus social media or websites correct, and see if you can get more information on your fellow panelists. Use this as an opportunity to connect with them ahead of the event on social media, read up on their experiences, and see if there is any synchronicity between you that you can leverage. I’ve had cases where two strong-willed minded panelists were on stage together and had a tendency to dominate the conversation and speak over others. Moderators or facilitators are often on stage to control the flow of communication, but if you feel like you’re not getting the support or time you need, make eye contact with them and indicate you want to contribute.

3. Know where you need to be and at what time. Conferences are difficult places. Giant rooms and corridors filled with people, signs misdirecting you, and changes to timetables mean things can alter in a heartbeat. Check in with the producers or stage manager 30 minutes before you’re due to go on, and run through any technical requirements like a USB or microphone, and understand where you’ll be sitting on stage regarding lighting or angles. This is ideal if you want to take photos for social media. Get a friend or ask the photographer at the event to take a few extra shots for you, always crediting them in return when you do use them. You'll also know what the viewpoint of the audience will be- high chairs, low chairs, slouching, stickers on the underside of shoes, etc.

At the end of the day, enjoy the opportunity to present to an audience, and revel in the discussions you get to be involved with. I hope to see you on one of my panels shortly! 

Related: Making Your Speech Work For You