I recently attended my local ASTD chapter meeting (www.dcastd.org) where a panel of CLOs talked about the role of global learning in tough economic times. I'm not usually a fan of panels, because they frequently appear disorganized with speakers rambling, cutting each other off and running out of time. But this panel was refreshingly different and very effective.
What made it so good? The moderator played a huge role and I'll cover tips for moderating a panel in the next post. But the speakers did some things very right. Here are the tips I uncovered:
1. Stand in Your Audience's Shoes Figure out what they need or want to know. Figure out what they may be able to use. Then give it to them. Run all your comments through the filter of what's useful to the audience rather than what may make you look good or what YOU want to talk about.
2. Be Prepared Just because you are sharing the limelight with other people, don't think this means you don't have to be rigorous in your preparation. Determine the 3 or 4 key messages that will be relevant to your audience and organize succinct, clear content around them. This is the key to being brief and pithy vs. rambling.
3. Use Stories Examples and stories are the absolute best way to help your audience remember what you say and see the applicability for their circumstances. Be sure to practice your stories so they are crisp and support the point(s) you are making.
4. Anticipate Questions Part of your prep must be to think about what questions your audience may have about your topic. Plan to cover off the most likely questions in your remarks -- and -- have answers and resources ready for other probable topics your audience will bring up.
5. Don't Use Slides A panel is more like a dialogue or conversation among the panelists and the audience than it is a series of stand-alone presentations. Unless PowerPoint is critical to demonstrate a concept -- in which case you would probably be using a graph, chart or image -- ditch the slides in favor of connection and eye contact with the audience.
6. Interact with the Other Panelists If this is a dialogue, then each panelist should be interacting with the other panelists as well as with the audience. When you are speaking, reference or link to something one of the other panelists said to emphasize or contrast your point. This helps synthesize the information for the audience and makes the panel discussion seem like an integrated whole.
7. Be Respectful Don't cut off other panelists or the moderator. Don't interrupt in the middle of another panelist's remarks. Don't hog the spotlight. The best possible experience for the audience is for all the panelists to make a contribution to the discussion without any one of them standing out at the expense of another.
8. Don't Answer Every Question You may indeed have an answer for every question that gets asked. That doesn't mean you have to offer them all. Be conscious of the balance on the panel. Don't feel compelled to constantly add your two cents after another panelist has given a perfectly fine answer. Re-read #7.
9. Be Conscious of How You Look When You're Not Speaking If you're fidgeting, shuffling papers, checking your BlackBerry or gazing off into space, you're not being respectful to the other panelists and the audience will absolutely notice and interpret.
10.Provide Your Bio If you provide your bio or an intro for the moderator, you will be assured of being introduced properly. Brevity is key. Think of the last time you sat in the audience and suffered through long-winded introductions, peppered with degrees and awards. Construct your intro so that it offers something interesting and relevant to the audience.
What other tips or best practices do you have to share...either from the perspective of being in the audience or being a panelist?