Many business leaders will tell you there is no substitute for communicating face-to-face. If you’ve got something important to say the best way is to look people in the eye and tell them to their face. Many technology, science and engineering PR professionals will agree with that. The mere fact that someone has made the physical effort to be somewhere automatically adds a layer of significance to any information shared. But perhaps most powerful of all, are the additional senses that come into play in these situations which can help bring a message or story to life.
There are plenty of channels that any science PR agency or engineering PR agency can explore that can deliver on that richer multi-sensory approach, from speaker opportunities at trade events, roadshows and breakfast briefings. All of them present opportunities to ‘sell your wares’ not just on a corporate level but also as an individual. One of the best ways of raising your corporate profile though, and positioning yourself as a true thought-leader is through panel discussions. And while not everyone is a naturally gifted TED speaker, there are a few things you can do to help you shine as a panellist.
Prepare like you’re giving a TED Talk
As mentioned, being part of a panel is an opportunity to ‘sell’ yourself. However, panel discussions should come across as ‘discussions’ and not as a solo presentation. If your moderator is any good he or she will share a planned list of questions – if not, ask for them. Then prepare to respond to each of those questions with a compelling opening, a rational argument and closing point that you want your audience to take away with them.
Research your fellow panellists – and interact
Panel discussions work best when there is a bit of debate and friendly banter between panellists. Find out where their areas of expertise and passions lie and use that to spark reaction and discussions. LinkedIn is often a good place to start.
Come armed with stories
Too often panellist quote dry data or stats, which can be a bit dull and unmemorable. Think about the theme of the panel discussion and then weave in some pre-planned stories and anecdotes that don’t just inform, but inspire your audience.
Keep it short and sweet
Time is tight during panel discussions, particularly if you have more than three or four people sharing the stage and a good list of topics to get through. Everyone should have a chance to share their thoughts, so be considerate of your fellow panellists and don’t be tempted to rabbit on unnecessarily. Make your point, then stop. Less is often more.
Bring some passion
Remember that the camera is always on when you’re a panellist, even when you’re not speaking. Sitting up will not only help you be more alert but also help you to project your voice better. And above all, be engaged, enthusiastic and passionate about the topics of discussion; if you’re not, then nor will your audience be!