If you’re an academic, an expert, or an entrepreneur, you may well be asked to be part of a conference panel. Here our trainer Paul Curran explains nine steps to making sure you give a good performance.
Being invited as a guest on a discussion panel is a great way to boost your profile, and your company’s, but are you making the most of the opportunity?
How can you make sure your contributions are the ones the audience remember?
I liken it to being questioned by a journalist – if you knew you were going to be grilled by a reporter you wouldn’t go in unprepared, would you?
With that in mind here is a list of a few things you can do to make sure you make the most of your time in the conference spotlight.
- Turn up! Okay this is fairly obvious – but you’d be surprised how many panellists don’t show up because something “urgent” came up at the last minute. This is a sure fire way to annoy the organisers and make them reluctant to use you again.
- Be interesting. You’ve been booked to have a point of view and to share your insights – so don’t be boring! What can you tell the audience that is new, different or counter intuitive? Conference audiences are normally well informed so they are looking for extra value, it’s your job to provide it.
- Prepare. The best way to be interesting is to think in advance about what you’ll say. Preparation is key. If you’re struggling for ideas ask your colleagues. What are they seeing in your industry? What has got them excited? Annoyed? Surprised? You can’t wing this – do your research before the big day.
- Think about the questions. As part of your preparation work out what questions you could be asked. Your starting point is the subject of the discussion. Contact the organisers to find out what they are looking for. Where do they see the conversation going? If you know the questions you can prepare interesting answers.
- Know your panellists. Who are you on with? Are they supportive of your ideas or are they anti? Find out what their point of view is, so that you can prepare answers that add depth if they steal your thunder or can counter their arguments if they go on the attack.
- Be succinct. Don’t waffle. This is not your opportunity to set out your world-view. The audience and your panel host want entertaining, informative but short answers.
- Get stuck in. Nothing makes a discussion come alive more than an argument. So if you disagree with a point, say so and set out why. However, be aware you will have made an enemy who will be gunning for you from this point. Be prepared for incoming fire. (By the way your panel host will be happy if a row ensues – it’s good entertainment and makes their job easier – as long as it doesn’t become too heated)
- Promote, promote, promote. If you’re active on social media promote your appearance in the run up to the event. The organisers will love this. So tweet regularly. Why not write an article for LinkedIn touching on some of the points you’ll be making on the day? This can be promoted by you, your communications team and the organisers. After the event, why not write a follow up article? Perhaps the organisers took a video of the discussion? Can you have a copy to share on social media?
- Get some training. The skills needed to shine at a conference panel (or even when you present and then do a question and answer session) are all covered in a media-training course. For instance, just been thrown a really tough question that you either can’t answer or don’t want to answer? The training will teach you how to handle it with confidence and keep the conversation on the subject you want to talk about.