As my editor reviewed my upcoming book, The Powerful Panelist: Everything You Need to Know to be a Capable and Confident Panelist in a Panel Discussion, she asked, “Can an introvert be a good panelist?”
My initial reaction was “Of course, an introvert can be a GREAT panelist!” However, the odds are stacked against them. Why? Because the talkative extroverts will suck up all the airtime!
So what is an introvert to do to stack the odds in their favor?
To answer this question, I called my colleague and author of Creating Introvert-Friendly Workplaces, Jennifer B. Kahnweiler, Ph.D, CSP. She agreed. “Absolutely! I’ve run numerous panels with introverts, and they have been fabulous! The interesting thing about introverts is that their sweet spot is in the preparation. Hopefully, the panel moderator will meet with them, ask for and go over potential questions, and share the theme, focus, and structure of the panel. When an introvert is prepared, they can be present in the moment and able to react confidently.”
Kahnweiler continues, “The introvert also needs to be prepared to jump into the conversation – and that is tough to do as an introvert!” Best case scenario, the moderator is managing the airtime. Regardless, an introvert should not hesitate to weigh in on the discussion. Kahnweiler suggests preparing a few ways to signal interest in joining the conversation such as a hand signal, leaning forward, or simply using the person’s name.
Kahnweiler also emphasizes “Another introvert strength is they are great listeners. They can pick up on what other panelists are saying and write down an idea of how that point of view is connected to one of their prepared key messages.” Because introverts are so introspective, they can really tune in to the heart of the discussion. When they focus on how they can benefit others with their contributions, they will feel less stressed and more confident.
“Generally, Introverts are thoughtful, reflective, and tend to use fewer words and more concise language. While the extroverts might be taking more quantitative airtime, the introverts may be sharing more memorable takeaways. Think of the EF Hutton commercial where everyone leans in to listen when EF Hutton talks! That’s how it is with the well-prepared messages and stories an introvert will share.”
It also helps the introvert to get to the venue early and scope out the stage and the chairs. Some introverts might prefer to sit at the end. Depending on their objectives for being on the panel, they might want to sit in the middle.
Finally, Kahnweiller suggests you let your panel moderator know that you are prepared and excited about being on the panel – even if you are an introvert! Remember, you were invited because you have something to offer, and those in attendance want to hear what you have to say.
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