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Being A Panelist: A Networking Gem

So far, we’ve talked about how to be a giver when networking and how to not overextend yourself while doing so.  This month, I want to switch gears a bit and talk about something we are all doing many times throughout our careers and likely not giving as much attention as we should: sitting on a panel.

Serving as a panelist is a great networking and relationship building tool: you have a captive audience ready to hear your perspective on something which you’re an expert and you are shining in front of prospective clients and people who can send referrals your way. 

Because we are often speaking on panels covering topics we are familiar with (e.g., our area of practice or our personal story), we don’t think we need to spend much, if any, time preparing for it.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  To capitalize on the networking gem that being a panelist really is, you have to bring your A-game.

Here are five tips to help you shine during your next panel discussion:

Prepare – Really

Treat this opportunity as if you are giving a solo presentation.  You should give that much weight to serving as a panelist.  Winging it can’t be an option.  Just because you practice real estate law does NOT mean you can sit on a stage and talk to a group about it without organizing your thoughts.

Get to the Point – In Two Minutes or Less

We’ve all heard that the average human attention span is mere seconds.  For panels, assume it’s two minutes tops.  Your responses should be less than two minutes – all of them.  If you are speaking for longer than two minutes, you are losing the audience as well as the point you are trying to make.

Speak TO the Audience

Make sure you are speaking directly to your audience.  Even though the question will come from the moderator, do not maintain eye contact with that person.  You are there solely for the audience and your attention throughout should be devoted entirely to them.

No Industry Jargon

Don’t do it.  Even if you think everyone knows what you’re referring to, I guarantee you at least one person doesn’t.  Clearly state the full title of a statute, act, organization or anything that might have a commonly used acronym or jargon phrase so everyone is on the same page.

Connect with Other Panelists and the Moderator – Before and After

This is a non-negotiable.  You need a call (NOT an email) with all panelists and the moderator prior to the main event.  You’re only as good as the weakest panelist and you need to know how you will play off each other and find ways to help everyone shine.

This is also a great way to be a giver when networking – take the initiative and schedule the call, draft questions that will make you (and others) shine and contribute to the overall success of the discussion.

After the panel discussion, don’t miss the opportunity to connect and follow up with other panelists, the moderator, and anyone that came up to you after to introduce themselves. 

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