5 Tips For Standing Out On A Speaker Panel

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Jan. 16 2018, Published 7:26 a.m. ET

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Let’s say you just got a great, unexpected email in your inbox: You’re invited to speak on a panel.

Congratulations! But, now what? Although you may not have the need to create and rehearse a presentation – speaking on a panel still requires preparation to ensure you stand out among your fellow panelists. The difference between a panelist and a remarkable panelist? The former simply wings it while the latter plans ahead of time to ensure they leave a lasting positive impression on the audience.

Here are 5 tips to help you stand out on a speaker panel…

Ask The Right Questions Beforehand

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Prior to the event, it’s highly recommended that you connect with the event organizer/panel moderator to get full details. Aside from confirming the basic information such as time, date, location and the names of your fellow panelists, you want to ask for more background on the topic, audience demographics and any key messages that they are hoping to reinforce. It’s also a good idea to ask about logistics and room set-up so you know exactly what to expect. Will all of the panelists be present in-person or will some participate virtually? Where will you be sitting? How many attendees are they expecting? Finally, be sure to ask about an event hashtag so that you can use it in any pre-promotion on your social channels and to engage with attendees prior to the event.

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Prepare Your Stories and Resources

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Once you understand the topic, audience and key messages surrounding the panel, you can begin to think about what stories and resources will be the best fit for the conversation. Start by reviewing your unique value proposition. In other words, what makes you remarkable? What unique expertise and experiences do you have that sets you apart from the rest? Remember, everyone has their own unique journey. When you are vulnerable enough to share your journey (especially the tough parts!), you’ll be able to connect with the audience in a special way. Draw on the details that are unique to you and support your opinions with statistics and/or helpful books and articles to provide additional value.

Wear Color And A Statement Piece

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Being intentional with your outfit choice will help to positively shape the impression that you leave on the audience. Color triggers emotional responses – not just from you but anyone else that you encounter. Ever notice that you feel a boost of happiness when you wear a bright color? It also has that same effect on others as bright colors give off a friendly and approachable vibe. When speaking on a panel, consider incorporating color into your outfit so that you not only positively impact your mood but also everyone in the audience. Thinking about wearing a statement piece? This is where asking the right questions comes in handy. For example, if you’ve been told that you’ll be sitting behind a table, you may want to choose a statement piece like a pair of earrings, a necklace or a scarf as the top half of your body will be most visible. If you will be sitting on a couch or a taller chair, a unique pair of shoes is a great choice!

Speak Your Mind

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Unless you’ve been given very strict guidelines, don’t be afraid to share your point of view – in a respectful manner, of course! Don’t necessarily agree with a point made by another panelist? You will really stand out if you confidently explain why you disagree, in a way that doesn’t tear down the other person but instead giving the audience another perspective to consider. If the idea of a panel makes you a little nervous, if possible, invite some friends to the event. Every time you look into the audience, it will put a smile on your face (and give you a boost of confidence!) when you see familiar faces. Plus, your friends can serve double duty — aside from being your personal cheerleaders, they can take lots of photos and videos while you’re speaking. After the event, you can add this content to your portfolio and share across your social networks to elevate your personal brand.

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Make Yourself Available

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When booking an event on your calendar, try your best to block off at least an hour after the conversation so you can spend time chatting with audience members one-on-one. After all, if you provide value all throughout the conversation, you’re guaranteed to have people line up to speak to you! Use this valuable time to make connections as all it takes is one positive interaction to lead to future opportunities. Not only should you be available in-person right after you finish speaking but pay attention to your email for the next few days afterward (some people will be too shy to speak in-person) and respond as promptly as possible. It’s guaranteed that not every panelist will do this and the generosity of your time will go a long way.

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