Famous in Your Field tip: be a great panelistWant to raise your profile?

Build your business cred?

Maybe even dip your toe into the public speaking waters?

I’ve got a great way to get you noticed and ease yourself into the public speaking game.

Be a panelist.

Panels, in case you aren’t familiar with the term, are a small group of individuals, considered subject matter experts, gathered by an event organizer, who speak on a topic before an audience. Usually, there’s a moderator to ask questions of the panelists and transition between them.

Here’s why being a panelist is 100% awesome:

  • You get the prestige of being viewed as an authority in your field. (Someone chose you to be on the panel after all!)
  • You get to make connections with a few other high flyers (your fellow panelists and the moderator.)
  • You benefit from a halo effect of being associated with the other people on the panel.
    The moderator is often a well-known public figure or prominent person in your industry (aka, someone you’d like to know.)

And here’s why it’s easier than giving a full-blown presentation:

  • You are typically speaking in short bursts, a minute to a few minutes at a time. (Don’t be the talky-talker!)
  • You’re one of several speakers, so you get a little break to collect your thoughts before it’s your turn to speak again.
  • As a panelist, you’re typically responding to questions that you’ve been given before the event, so you have time to craft your response and practice delivering like a pro.

How to shine on a panel

The best panel speakers are prepared. They tell stories, exude energy and make a connection with the audience.

You can be one of them, when you follow these five guidelines.

1. Prepare. 

Why do so many panels stink out loud? Because the panelists don’t take it seriously. They think that they can just “wing it.” So, so wrong.

Whatever you do, do not preface ANY of your comments with this groan-inducer: “I really haven’t prepared anything formal.”

Instead, ask for details on the topic, the focus and the questions in advance. Prepare your answers with good information, punchy sound bites and quick stories. Practice delivering them, in whole and in part (in case you get cut off.)

Practice your transitions, too. These are short phrases that let you take control of the conversation and share your story. Keep these phrases in your repertoire:

“Let me add something to that idea…”

“My perspective is different, I believe/think/experienced…”

“At my company, we…”

2. Get to know the other panelists.

Ask the organizer to schedule a conference call or better yet, a Skype chat or Google Hangout, so that you can see each of your fellow panelists, as well as the moderator.

This is your chance to establish rapport, get to know the other panelists’ speaking styles and refine each of your roles.

3. Guarantee your great intro. 

While the session is being organized, send your bio to the organizer and the moderator. Make it short (three sentences!) snappy, and easy to read.

Practice reading it aloud yourself. Rework any words or phrases that trip you up, and include pronunciation help.

But don’t rest there! Bring a printed copy with you. Before the panel starts, hand the moderator the same printed bio and tell him or her to read it verbatim.

4. Talk to the audience.

Panel newbies find it hard to resist the pull to look at, and address their responses to the moderator. It’s natural: after all, the moderator is the person asking you the questions. He or she is also someone you’ve established a bit of a relationship with.

But, no. Nix. Nein.

Never look at the moderator. 1000% of your attention should be focused on the audience.

5. Keep your energy level UP.

When you’re the panelist who’s not speaking, it’s easy to look bored (even when you’re not.)

You forget that even though someone else is talking, you’re still on stage, too. And at least some of the audience members are watching your facial expressions and body language.


  • Hunch or slouch
  • Stare into space
  • Look down at your phone

Being a panelist is a powerful opportunity to showcase your knowledge and your personality. Make it work for you with energy, stories and sound bites.

Your Fame Boosting Assignment:

This week, seek out one opportunity to speak on a panel. (Maybe you should organize one?) If you have trouble finding one, let three people know that it’s something you’d like to do. When you put your intentions into the world, word spreads and opportunities flow your way.

What’s that hot, shiny object? Oh, it’s you, superstar!


  1. Irina on January 12, 2015 at 11:27 am

    Oh I loved this article Lori. I was on the Success Panel at Fabienne Frederikson Mindset Retreat and it was also live-streamed. I had a hard time looking at the audience when she was the one asking the questions. I did OK though. Next time on the panel I will take this advice to heart and look at the audience 90% of the time. Now I get to e-mail 3 people to tell them I want to be on the panel. Are panels only live or on-line too? Thank you.

    • Lori on January 15, 2015 at 10:19 am

      Congrats, Irina! Being on Fabienne’s success panel is a huge kudo to you – it’s natural that you’d be nervous. Most panels are live, but there are a few blogtalk/radio/podcasts that have multiple guests in a panel format. Denise Antoon and I were co-guests on Cena Block’s fantastic radio show and it was a fun three-way conversation. Go get ’em, Irina!

  2. Kelly on January 13, 2015 at 2:11 pm

    I too was on a panel for Fabienne and shook 1/2 the time… But I did stay with the audience and try my best to connect with them whether they were watching live or via live stream. So these tips are extremely
    Mealy helpful! And for me it’s like baby steps to get ” on stage” to speak!

    • Lori on January 15, 2015 at 10:17 am

      *Slow clap* Kelly! Every step is progress and you should be proud. (I wish I could see you on the panel!)

  3. Sarah on January 14, 2015 at 12:29 pm

    This is really great Lori. Such great ideas for preparing and presenting on a panel. I could use a little more help finding such opportunities! Any suggestions?

  4. Nancy on January 14, 2015 at 5:25 pm

    You always give such straight-ahead tips and advice. This is a great idea and your suggestions are priceless.

    • Lori on January 15, 2015 at 10:26 am

      So glad to see you here, Nancy. And I can’t wait to dive into your posts (I love your wordplay.)

  5. Stacy on January 14, 2015 at 9:19 pm

    I was just saying this week that I prefer being part of a conversation over giving a presentation, but it didn’t occur to me that being on a panel is more like having a conversation. Thank you for opening my eyes up to this opportunity! And for providing such great success strategies!

    • Lori on January 15, 2015 at 10:23 am

      Welcome, Stacy! Yes, being a panelist can reduce some of the public speaking nerves, for the exact reasons you mentioned – it’s more interactive, and generally, you’re responding to questions. You can do it, Stacy.

  6. Jane Lovas on January 14, 2015 at 9:52 pm

    This is great. I know it can be challenging to answer the moderator and look at the audience. It’s been a while since I’ve been on a panel, your advice to step out and let people know that you’re interested is perfect. Not sure if right now is the time for me, and if one shows up I’m ready!

    Thanks for the great information.

    • Lori on January 15, 2015 at 10:21 am

      I’m a big believer that if you put your desire out “there” it’ll happen. (I’ll bet you feel similarly, Jane.) Good luck on getting back in the game!

  7. Cindy on January 18, 2015 at 9:48 am

    Great tips to be sure you shine!!

    • Lori on February 6, 2015 at 9:30 pm

      Thanks for the kudos, Cindy.

  8. Lilia Lee on January 23, 2015 at 10:40 am

    Another great idea from you Lori. I love the idea of being one of a group of panelists.

Leave a Comment