Anyone who's watched Guy Kawasaki moderate a panel (or serve on one) immediately realizes that he's a grand master of the art. Here are some pointers adapted from his new book Art of the Start 2.0 (a must-read for every entrepreneur):
1. Be a subject matter expert.
Don't agree to be on a panel if you're not an expert on the subject matter. While you may think it's a great opportunity to get in front of a lot people, you'll inevitably look unprepared and shallow next to the real experts.
2. Know why you're agreeing.
Even if you're a subject matter expert, being on a panel may not be an effective use of your time and energy. Before agreeing, ask yourself: does being on this panel advance my own agenda? If not, decline, because otherwise it's wasted time.
3. Control your introduction.
Even if the moderator knows who you are and has researched you on the web, he or she may not know exactly how you want to be described at this stage in your career. Provide the moderator with a short (100 words) bio and ask that it be read verbatim.
4. Bring the microphone close.
Panelists normally sit down, which compresses the chest and makes it harder to project your voice and harder for a microphone to pick it up. As a general rule, hold the microphone 1? from your mouth and speak in a normal voice.
5. Never give a sales pitch.
I borrowed this from Kawasaki's chapter on public speaking, but I feel this rule is even more important when you're a panelist. Sales pitches turn people off. The moment you sound like you're pitching, you've lost the audience.
6. Entertain, don't just inform.
Whenever you're on stage as a speaker, moderator or panelist, your primary goal is always to be entertaining. If people learn something, too, that's fine, but they can't and won't learn anything if you're boring them to death.
7. Prepare for the tough questions.
Kawasaki advises that "you tell the truth, especially when the truth is obvious" and suggests using humor to defuse the situation. In my experience, though, it's wise to prepare diplomatic (but not weasel-y) answers to difficult questions that might come up.
8. Answer the question but segue if necessary.
When you agreed to be a panelist, you considered your agenda. If during the panel, the issues you want to discuss aren't surfacing, use a related question to segue into a discussion of your agenda. Example: "I agree that's important but the real issue is..."
9. Be plain simple and short.
While you may feel that because you're on a panel of experts, you should address the level of experience on the stage. However, a panel is not the time to discuss any complex; you want to clear and simple so that everyone in the audience understands you.
10. Fake interest when others talk.
Even if the other panelists are deadly boring, resist any temptation you might feel to check your watch, answer emails, gaze out the window, tap your feet, roll your eyes, etc. It's disrespectful and makes you look like a jerk.
11. Talk to the audience not the moderator.
Even though the moderator is asking the questions, always direct your answers to the audience. The moderator is acting as a proxy for the audience, asking the questions that they (not the moderator) want answered.
12. Avoid being a ditto-head.
Rather than saying "I agree with the other panelist." contribute something new based upon the assumption that you agree. However, if a subject has been talked to death, say "That question's been answered. For the audience's sake, maybe we should move on."