How To Kick Ass On A Panel

Author Ricardo Bueno    Category reblogworld     Tags

NAHREP National Conference 2008People think speaking on a panel is easy, and sure I guess it can be. But if you really wanna “rock da house,” leave an impression and get invited to speak again, you best get prepared! Personally, from a presenter’s perspective, I’ve experienced both good panels and bad ones. On the first, I was fortunate enough to have a standing relationship with my co-panelists (I was very familiar with who they were and the work they were doing). Needless to say, each of us were very well prepared. Unlike another panel wherein neither of us knew each other till the day of the event (heck we didn’t even know who the moderator was). This was poor organization on the conference organizer’s part in my opinion (well, some fault was our own too I suppose). At the end of the day, I know we could have done a much better job which leads me to the point of this post: come prepared and ready to rock-n’-roll! You conference attendees expect nothing less from you…

Preparation Tips:

  • Know your session material: what’s the objective of the session? Be able to identify key takeaways for attendees and know your material well enough so that it doesn’t look like you’re searching for the answer (folks are paying money to attend your little shindig of a session, they’re paying for your expertise, so give it to ’em).
  • Know your panelists: what’s their background? What are they doing and what have they done? It would be wise to get on the phone with your co-panelists to get a feel for one another (and your individual presentations styles) before your session.
  • Practice makes perfect: try to identify the kinds of questions your moderator is going to ask you (a good moderator will send you some questions ahead of time). Practice so that you can deliver quick and ready responses. Again, nothing sucks more than staring at the ceiling in search for an answer. But give a quick response, and bam, you rock!

Additional Resources:

  • How To Kick Butt On A Panel by Guy Kawasaki – this post offers some EXCELLENT step-by-step advice for getting prepared. Read it, study it, and execute the steps.
  • Why panel sessions suck (and how to fix them) by Scott Berkun – This post is from a work in progress, a book by Scott Berkun titled “Confessions of A Public Speaker” (definitely looking forward to reading the finished product). It offers an excellent look at the kinds of things that go wrong with panels and then offers some very constructive advice for avoiding the bad and delivering a good session.
  • How to prevent the pitiful panel by Edward Boches – nothing sucks more than a boring panel. This post offers some all around good advice to you as a panelist, moderator and attendee.

Over to you…

Have you presented on a panel before? What advice can you offer to panelists for delivering a good session? As an attendee, what do you expect from a presenter? Come now, what say you?!

6 Comments to “How To Kick Ass On A Panel”

  • Jeff Turner October 8, 2009 at 7:13 pm

    If your panelists are engaging speakers who know their stuff and your moderator has the ability to keep the focus of the panel on the stated goals, the tips and tricks listed above aren’t necessary. I’m finding that these are rare.

    The panels at some of the conferences I’ve attended seem to have been little more than afterthoughts, with panelists sometimes added the morning of the event. It’s hard to get eveyone focused in that scenario.

    I like the prep that is going into this year’s REBlogworld panels. I think it will show up in the results.

  • Darren Rowse October 8, 2009 at 7:41 pm

    I think it probably comes down to personality and your own style a little – but I personally like to have done a fair bit of preparation for panels and like to know questions I’ll be asked in advance where possible so that I can have at least one solid and practical thing to say for each question or topic.

    There is always a lot of spontaneity on panels but often they tend to become ramble-fests – so if you’ve got a few main points to share that can help you keep on track.

    The other thing that I try to do is come with practical/how to type content rather than just theory. People want to go away and be able to implement something – not just know something new. As a result having a few tips in mind and also some examples to illustrate what you’re saying in a practical sense can be useful.

  • Melissa DelGaudio October 9, 2009 at 3:48 am

    When I’m watching/listening to a panel discussion, there are a few things that can make or break it for me. First, I need the panelists to know their stuff. I’ve seen plenty where it was clear that they didn’t (never a good thing). And, as Darren said above, I want to leave with the possibility of some practical application of what’s been discussed.

    Being prepared is key. But I would caution against being OVER-prepared, as that can make answers sound rehearsed or canned, which really, really bugs me. When you’re over-prepared, the opportunity to be even a little spontaneous can get lost. Off the cuff discussions or unusual tangents onto which panelists thrust themselves can often be interesting & thought-provoking, not to mention fun!

    And please, try to be at least a LITTLE entertaining. Panel discussions that make me laugh here and there are much more likely to hold my attention or make a lasting impression than the ones that are dry, boring or in which the participants just tell each other how awesome they are (yes, I’ve seen plenty of THAT, too). That variety is like real-life Ambien for me.

  • Ricardo Bueno October 13, 2009 at 1:35 am

    Jeff: A great moderator makes for a great session. Helps keep the discussion in check and on point. You Mr. Turner, are a great moderator if I do say so myself.

  • Ricardo Bueno October 13, 2009 at 1:39 am

    Darren: nothing wrong with a little spontaneity; I think it’s a good thing. But where it goes wrong is when the panel turns into nothing more than a “ramble-fest” as you suggested. It’s those panels that I find useless. Then again, I might be wrong. Personally, I think it’s good to toss in some preparation (know what you’re going to talk about, have a few main points outlined, etc.). Not so much so that you sound like you’re reading of a sheet when you talk but enough such that you can state your point, then move on and discuss something else.

    Re: leaving people with practical/how to type of information, it’s those panels that I appreciate most. It’s great to discuss the theory behind something, but give me something I can actually implement, and I’m much more grateful which goes back to the point about “practice makes perfect.” In other words, identify a few good points that you intent to give the audience.

    Thanks for stopping by to add some thoughts Darren!

  • Ricardo Bueno October 13, 2009 at 1:45 am

    Melissa: first and foremost, I’m totally going to miss seeing you at REBlogworld! But then again, I’m totally stoked that you’re coming to LA in a couple of weeks for 140conf and let me tell ya, we’re going to have a great time (I’ll save some fun for that event).

    In regards to your comment, I’m a big fan of: Edutainment. Educating whilst being a little entertaining. A speaker that can both educate and entertain an audience is going to be a great speaker (in my opinion). Heck, if you can make an audience laugh, you have their attention through and through. The rest is up to you to deliver the goods (some content/tips that they can walk away with an implement).

    Now yes I agree that you can practice too much. To the point where you sound rehearsed and no that’s never a good thing. Trick is in finding that balance. Practice your notes, then rip ’em up and say what you have to say. Do it until your presentation comes out naturally and heck, be a little spontaneous (it can be a good thing).