4 ways to stand out on a speakers panel

When you’re speaking on a panel, it’s easy to get lost in a sea of voices and expressions. Here’s how to make sure you don’t blend into the group.

Get excited about the topic — it’ll show

It helps when you like what you’re talking about.

Laura Katen, President of Katen Consulting, writes in The Muse that panelists should “have fun!”

“Yes, your audience is there to learn something, but they’re probably hoping to have fun, too! So, relax, smile, and enjoy being on the panel,” she writes. “If you look bored or unengaged, your audience will likely reflect those feelings back. But being friendly and likeable, in addition to being a great speaker, is likely to get you invited back next time.”

Get ready to contribute first

Dorie Clark, an author, speaker, marketing strategist and an adjunct professor at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, writes about this in the Harvard Business Review.

“Another tip for panel success is to try to speak first. This may not always be possible, as the moderator may address questions to particular individuals. But if they prefer an open format — ‘So, what does everyone think the most important trends in AI are?’ — then it pays to be ready to jump in while others are still formulating their responses,” she writes. “That’s because the person who speaks first often sets the tenor of the debate, and you eliminate the risk that the person speaking before you will steal the key point you wanted to make.”

Don’t fade into the background …

… or most audience members won’t remember you.

Rob Biesenbach, an author, speaker, consultant and trainer, writes on the website for Speaker Magazine that as a panelist, you should “keep your energy up.”

“Of course, keeping your energy up is essential, especially if you’re stuck in the typical panel setup—seated behind a table. A table creates a literal and figurative barrier between the panel and the audience. The best panels I’ve seen ditch the table and use stools instead of chairs,” he writes. “Ask about the set-up in advance and see if the organizers are willing to make this adjustment. If you have to be seated, don’t slouch or lean back. That will drain the energy right out of you. Lean in and stay physically engaged.”

Have takeaways ready for the audience

This can’t help.

Brian Halligan, author, MIT senior lecturer and co-founder and CEO of HubSpot, writes on the site about how panelists should think about their “Soundbytes, Soundbytes, Soundbytes.”

“On the piece of paper you bring to the panel, have several pithy sound bytes on there that people will shake their head up and down at, write down, and tweet. One of my recent favorite is ‘there will be more changes in marketing in the next 5 years than there has been in the last 50 years,’ ” he writes.