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Perhaps you’ve been asked to serve as a panelist in an upcoming panel discussion…and you may be wondering, “What do I have to do to be prepared?”

That’s a GREAT question, as I have seen too many panelists do absolutely NO preparation.  Okay, they might have read the descriptive email on the flight into the city or briefly chatted with the panel moderator.  I affectionally call this the “show up and throw up strategy,” where the panelists think they can get by with sheer brilliance.

Unfortunately, it rarely works that way.  A brilliant, D.E.E.P. panelist is willing to do the work.  And it’s really not a huge lift, but can make a huge difference to the audience and their perceived value.

So, what’s the work?

First of all, chat with the meeting organizer and/or the panel moderator to determine the key fundamentals such as scope of the topic, who will be in the audience, the key objectives, etc.  You can even use this handy checklist to help guide the conversation.

From this conversation, you should have a firm grasp on why you were selected.  Your role, diverse viewpoint and relatability to the audience. You’ll want to leverage these strengths.

Next, take a look at the format.  Is it the typical panel format, or will there be some other key areas to engage with the panel moderator, your fellow panelists and/or the audience?

From there, identify three key messages you believe the audience can derive great value.  With each of these key messages, identify an example, a story, demonstration or prop that will make your idea come to life.  And don’t forget a short, “Twitterable” soundbite that audiences will remember after the panel discussion is over.

Finally, think about a final takeaway, insight, or idea you want to leave the audience with.  I’m a big fan of asking the audience to do something – a “call to action” – based on what they heard.

When you have done the work (see, it’s not that huge of a lift, is it?), then you’ll come across as smart, engaging, and share great value during the panel discussion.

Related Articles:

Powerful Panel Discussion Tip #108 with Joe Calloway: What to Do With a Panelist Who Won’t Shut Up

How to Create GREAT Questions for Your Panelists to Answer during Your Panel Discussion

“Turn the Tables” in a Debate-Style Panel Discussion Format

Kristin Arnold, professional panel moderator, and high-stakes meeting facilitator, shares her best practices for interactive, interesting, and engaging panel presentations. For more resources like this, or to have Kristin moderate your next panel visit the Powerful Panels official website.


Kristin ArnoldKristin Arnold
KRISTIN ARNOLD, MBA, CSP, CPF|Master has been facilitating meaningful conversations between executives and managers to make better decisions and achieve extraordinary results for 25+ years. She's a leading authority on moderating panel discussions and passionate about finding the perfect olive to complement a vodka martini.

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