Whether you’ve been invited to be a part of a panel at an event or you’ve had your own panel accepted for inclusion into an event, one thing is universally true: there is a period of elation followed by a longer and often more intense period of panic. Fear not, readers! In this post we are going to teach you everything you need to know about giving a good panel.
Making Sure People Show Up
Obviously, there is demand for your presentation or you wouldn’t have been invited/been approved. Still, there are some things that you can do to make sure that your panel has good attendance.
1. Make Sure You are Listed Correctly
This goes beyond the printed program. Most conventions and conferences now use apps to keep their attendees up to date because they are easier to update with last minute schedule or lineup changes (and they provide extra advertising space for sponsorships).
For you, the event app is a fantastic way to both attract and learn from your panel’s audience. In addition to making sure that you are listed correctly, most apps of this nature offer attendees a way to provide feedback to panel guests and moderators. Encouraging your panel attendees to leave feedback and suggestions will help you better plan future panels and can help you build lasting relationships with them.
2. Bribery Is Your Friend
In your listing, promise some sort of free swag that will only be available to people who attend the panel. You don’t have to spend a lot on this item but you’ll want it to be better than just a pen, sticker or your usual button.
Note: If funds are tight you *can* make a panel-specific, limited edition button. For whatever reason buttons are insanely popular at events so having one that very few other people get to have will probably go over really well. You can sweeten this further by printing unique “one use only” discount codes for some of your merchandise on them to make them even more valuable.
What Should You Say?
If you are simply a guest on this panel, you’ll have some of your work done for you. The panel moderator will ask you questions and you simply need to answer them or respond to points other panelists are making.
As a moderator, though, you’ll need to come up with some insightful questions to ask your guests. The best way to do this is to ask your own audience for questions before the panel. Set up a survey or a form that people can fill out and then choose the most popular suggestions as a basis for your panel.
The real trick to a good panel, though, is authenticity. People want to know what you can teach them and about the experiences you’ve had. They don’t want a sales pitch. Both Sides of the Table has a great post on how to sit on a panel.
The Dreaded Q&A
A lot of moderators will avoid the audience Q and A because the same questions are always asked at these events. Whether or not you decide to skip it in favor of giving your panelists more time to talk and share ideas is up to you. You can always keep it in your back pocket in case conversation dwindles.
Remember, though, that even though audience members might be asking the same questions, it is rarely the same person asking them. The asker has his or her own reasons for asking the question so even though you might be sick of answering it; remember that the thirty seconds you give to that person will probably be more valuable than what you said during the “roundtable” part of the panel.
Have you recently been on a panel or run a panel discussion at a conference? Did it go well? Share what you’ve learned with the class!
This is a post by Sara Stringer