I never know what to wear during a panel discussion. My general rule of thumb is to wear one cut above what the audience will be wearing. But somehow, I don’t think that’s enough.
So I asked my colleague, Sylvie di Giusto, a woman who knows what it takes to impress the audience and leave a lasting impression. After all, that is the primary focus of her speaking and consulting practice – and I think she actually pulls it off! Every time I see her, she is very impressive. And I’m not easily impressed!
Here are the main points of our chat that you can watch or listen to:
You walk out on stage, you sit down, and without even saying a word, people think that they already know something about you! Unfortunately, very powerful sources are either working for you or against you – and those sources are called unconscious biases. There are around 185 different unconscious biases that can work against you. For example, let’s take the Confirmation Bias. People are looking for confirmation. If they see something sloppy in you, they’re going to find that sloppiness later in your behavior: how you sit on your chair, how you talk, the materials/handouts you provide.
To overcome these biases to make a great first and lasting impression, di Giusto encourages you to do your homework and prepare for these
Di Giusto emphasizes the importance to have a servant mindset: “You serve these four types of people to create a memorable experience on stage. You are not there because it’s about you and your knowledge. Unfortunately, we often fall into the trap that it’s about us, but it’s actually about the guests in the audience, you as a representation of the host entity, with the support of the AV team.”
Two more biases that affect how audiences will remember you are the primacy and recency bias: the first thing they remember and the last thing they remember. Most panel moderators will share the first question so you can shine with the first question. But they may or may not share the final question with you so you can end on a bang! So ask the panel moderator what the closing question will be and come prepared with at least three different answers – so you won’t be repetitive with your fellow panelists!
One final thing to consider: Your first impression may not happen on the stage as a panelist. You make it long before when the audience goes to the event website. What picture and bio will they see? Some might even search your name and check out our social media streams. You want to control the narrative so that you make good first impressions so make sure you submit worthy promotional materials and follow up to see what they posted on your behalf.
Thanks, Sylvie for sharing your words of wisdom!
For more information about how to moderate a lively & informative leadership panel discussion, check out our free 7-part video series on how to moderate a panel and other resources to help you organize, moderate, or be a panel member.