Panel presentations are unique forms of public speaking. They are not exactly like a formal speech presented by a single individual. They are not exactly like an informal group discussion. Panel presentations are somewhere in between these two common forms of public speaking. While you want some formality, you want to remain connected. While you want to have a clear plan, you want to remain flexible. Below, you will find 10 general tips that may help your next panel presentation be more effective.
Connect with the Audience: Even before your presentation begins, the audience will look to you for direction and to set the mood. If you want a relaxed atmosphere, be relaxed. If you want a more formal atmosphere, focus on appearing professional. The right mood to set is up to you and the members of your panel. Regardless of the atmosphere you want to achieve, remember that the audience takes their cues from you throughout the presentation. For example, when another panel member is speaking, be sure to look at them and demonstrate your understanding of what they are saying (e.g., nodding your head, smiling, etc.). If you are not paying attention, why should the audience?
Know the Rules: Each panel will have its own set of rules. The amount of time each speaker is allotted, attire, expected language styles, and more are all examples of rules that will vary from one panel to another. If possible, discuss these rules explicitly with other panelists. If no rules are formally agreed upon, contact the moderator. If that is not possible, plan to dress and speak professionally, and keep your remarks to a minimum.
Know your Role: What is the order of speakers? When do you speak? Who speaks before you? What are they talking about? Be sure you can answer all of these questions before the panel begins. You do not want to be caught unprepared or find yourself repeating what has already been said. Be prepared!
Know your Partners: Each person on your panel is different. The ways they like to be treated during presentations will be different as well. Find out, if possible, if anyone has any idiosyncrasies you should know about.
Avoid Reading: Engaging your audience is critical to the success of any presentation. A panel discussion is no exception. Making eye contact signals to your audience that you are attentive and honest. Reading a presentation or relying too heavily on notes does not allow you to maintain eye contact. Be sure to be well prepared and use minimal notes.
Limit your Content: Panel presentations usually include very limited amounts of speaking time for each speaker. For this reason, you should omit any unnecessary details or content. Let's face it, it is impossible to tell us everything about anything in less than ten minutes-so don't try. Focus on including only the essentials in your presentation.
Good Organization is Critical: Once you determine what must be included in your presentation, be sure to organize the information effectively. Put your main points in an order that is easy to understand and makes sense to your audience. Also, if you are presenting material from a research paper, do not be afraid to organize the presentation in a way that is different from the paper.
Delivery Matters: Since panel presentations are not formal speeches, it may be tempting to take a shortcut and not consider or practice delivery. Delivery is still important. In fact, your limited speaking time puts a higher premium on quality delivery. Articulate your words, use correct grammar, avoid a monotonous delivery, and use pauses to maintain the interest of the audience. In other words, treat a panel presentation with the same level of care that you would use for a more formal, individual speech.
Be Professional: The definition of "professional" will vary from one presentation to the next. However, some elements of professionalism never change. Arrive on time, remain engaged throughout the presentation, speak carefully and thoughtfully, and always treat your partners and audience with respect.
Take Notes: Be sure to grab a notepad and pen when you take your place on the panel. While other participants are talking, take a few notes. This will help you avoid repeating what has already been said, appear engaged in the panel, answer questions following the presentation, and it's generally a good place to write down those last minute ideas that pop into your head while you wait to speak.