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So you’ve been asked to be a panelist on a panel discussion and you and your colleagues are wondering, “Why you should be a panelist? Why stick your neck out there?”

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Indeed, it would be far easier to sit smugly in the audience and trash talk the panel conversation than to be part of the conversation! Yet there are significant benefits and advantages for you to say “yes” to the invitation to be a panelist at a panel discussion:

  1. Get Comfortable with Public Speaking. Speaking at industry conferences and/or professional events can be intimidating, so being a panelist is a great stepping stone where you can ease into greater speaking opportunities.
  2. Raise your Profile as an Emerging Leader or Expert in your Field. “There’s just something about being up on stage that sends the message that you are someone with whom to do business,” says Mike Peiru.
  3. Meet Other Influencers. Your fellow panelists are great connections, so reach out to them before the panel and get to know them a bit better.  You’ll be more confident and comfortable conversing with them on stage.
  4. Get Smart.  Find out why the meeting organizer or panel moderator has selected you to be on the panel. Even though you might feel qualified to talk about the topic, you’ll want to do a little research to get up to speed on the latest ideas and key trends that impact the industry and the particular issue being discussed.
  5. Reach New Customers.  You now have a great reason to reach out to new and potential customers when you invite them to attend the panel discussion – and to let them know how it went along with a summary of the key points discussed. 
  6. Appreciation.  When you provide tangible ideas and valuable takeaways, the audience will appreciate you.  They’ll remember your name and your organization.
  7. Awareness.  Mark Suster agrees: “People at the conference become aware of who you are…..it serves as a great conversation piece to meet people the rest of the conference.  People will say, ‘Oh, I saw you [on that great panel discussion]’. It’s a free icebreaker at the rest of the conference!”
  8. Diversity. Jo Miller reminds us, “Even if you can’t see the benefit for yourself, consider this: Panels are dominated by baby boomers, senior executives, and white dudes. There is a very real need for more diverse panelists, in terms of gender, career phase, generation, and ethnicity. The audience needs to see people like you, so do us all a favor and accept when you’re invited to be a panelist and, when you’re not invited… volunteer!”

Obviously, there is a HUGE upside to saying “yes.”  When you do a great job, you can come out looking like a star

Even so, there is an equally HUGE downside to saying “yes” if you are not willing to put the work into it.

So do us all a favor: Say “yes” to being a panelist only when you see a worthwhile upside and are willing to put the work into making your panel discussion simply amazing!

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For more information about how to moderate a lively & informative leadership panel discussion, check out our free 7-part video series on how to moderate a panel and other resources to help you organize, moderate, or be a panel member.

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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