Tips for Panelists

A journalist recently asked for some tips for SXSW panelists, here is the list that I gave him.  Hopefully it’ll be useful to you, too!

Tips for Panelists:
  1. Find out what questions you will be asked ahead of time.  This way you can practice your responses to ensure that you avoid too many “ums” and that you hit all of the key points.
  2. Ask the curator why they’ve included you in the panel.  Aks them what they think is interesting about you and the topic you can speak to.  It will help you frame your answers.
  3. Ask about the curator about the audience.  Knowing who your audience is ahead of time will help you do the research you need to do so you can answer questions in a way they can understand.
  4. Find out who else will be on the panel.  You’ve been asked to fill a specific role, so have they.  Best practice is to stay in your role and not step on your fellow panelists toes.
  5. It’s ok to agree and disagree with your fellow panelists.  You should try to be as respectful as possible in both cases.  If disagreeing, frame it kindly “I see your point, but I don’t agree for the following reasons.”  If agreeing with someone, don’t repeat what they already said, add to it.  It’s boring for the audience to hear the same point over and over again.
  6. Be careful of how you sit.  If there’s a table in front of you, don’t lean over too far, it feels agressive.  If there isn’t a table in front of you, be mindful of your legs,  Gentlemen: no need to sit very wide, it’s distracting to the audience. Consider crossing your legs. Ladies:  Keep your knees together.  Consider wearing flats or lower heels, not all chairs are at the perfect height for you to sit comfortably with higher heels.
  7. If you’re going to be on camera and there are lights, consider wearing makeup.  Ladies:  Wear a foundation shade a little bit darker than your normally wear so you’re not washed out.  Gentlemen:  Consider wearing powder so you don’t appear shiny on camera.  No one should wear really busy patterns, avoid super bright shades of yellow, red or orange.  It can be glaring on camera.

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