How to Prepare for a Panel Discussion

Congratulations! You are speaking as a panelist for an IAW online event! It’s time to show your best self and shine in this speaking opportunity. Making the best impression as a panelist takes a little bit of preparation. So, here are some tricks and tips to get you rolling:

Watch past panel discussions

The best way to prepare for a panel discussion is by watching previous events. Most organizations promote their past events and have recordings of them. By watching or attending, you can get a feel for how the moderator will run the conversation and the reaction from the audience. Take notes during it to remember what you thought was impressive of other panelists or how to handle difficult questions. 

Understand your role on the panel

Every panelist is chosen for a specific reason. You might be there to bring scientific findings or knowledge, present one perspective on controversy, or represent your business. Knowing the topics you need to discuss and your role will better prepare you. Prep talking points, statistics, and anecdotes to help make your point and calm your nerves. You can also ask the moderator for the questions they plan to ask ahead of time to prepare your response. 

Practice speaking

Public discussions are unlike interviews or speaker events. There can be disagreements, more than one person is answering, and the moderator might come up with new questions on the spot. Practice keeping your answers as short and to the point as possible. You want to present yourself as an expert without stepping on someone’s toes. Also, consider how you want to respond to opposing opinions. Panel discussions are about leading industry topics, and not everyone will share the same perspective. 

Network with the other panelists

Knowing ahead of time who you sit next to is an easy opportunity to network. Are they other industry leaders? Do they have the business experience you’d like to learn from? Can you help each other connect to resources? The better you know your fellow panelists, the easier it is for the moderator to develop the conversation.

Present yourself confidently

Before the panel discussion, consider how others view your outward appearance. Presenting yourself as a confident professional takes time and awareness. Be aware of your surroundings, clothing, body language, and tone of voice while presenting online. Unlike office interviews or event spaces, panel discussions invite thousands to join in the audience for online events.

One tip for success is to set up your laptop in front of a blank wall, bookcase, or other neutral background that won’t distract the audience from you. 

If you have a busy schedule and can’t be home for the panel discussion, go to a local cafe, library, or lobby space where you can access wifi and have a quiet background. You may think sitting in your car or bedroom is okay, but it can distract from your message and expertise. 

Your online presence is equally as important as how you appear in person. Anytime you attend an online event is a chance to show your personal brand, and market yourself and your skill set. You wouldn’t show up to a conference in a tank top and sweatpants. So, think of every online event as another networking event where you are likely to meet an executive or client. You want to make a good impression while being authentic to your personal brand

Be on time 

We recommend being ready a half-hour to fifteen minutes before the event begins. The extra time resolves technical difficulties beforehand and offers an opportunity to chat with other panelists for a more natural conversation. It will be obvious to your audience if you’re rushing onstage, so give yourself time to ease into the discussion.

Want to find more speaking opportunities? The International Association of Women wants to help professional women all around the world become thought leaders in their industry. Find resources, community, and thousands of events to boost your professional and entrepreneurial growth.

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