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How to perform well on a panel discussion – Part 1/3

More and more business leaders, spokespeople, and ‘influencers’* are being asked to be parts of panel discussions – yet many don’t make the most of the opportunity.



Many panelists do not perform at their best because they think that being part of a ‘shared responsibility’  on a panel will put less pressure on them. Many ‘wing it’ thinking that being on a panel is just a casual chat.

In this post, I’ll share how you can do a better job if you are invited go be part of a panel. I’ll share some of the advice I give to business leaders when they prepare to be on a panel.  Yes, the effective leaders/spokespeople/panelists prepare to perform well on a panel. They make the most of the panel opportunity to achieve whatever objectives they have – whether it’s to boost profile (for themselves or their business)  or to get people to approach/contact them or some other objective.

As one of my business heroes, Guy Kawasaki, stresses: your role on a panel discussion is to entertain as well as inform. You are being compared to your fellow panelists. You need to contribute and add value. You need to compress your messages and deliver your messages in a memorable way.


By ‘memorable’ – I mean expressing your knowledge/opinion in ways that stand out (in a good way) that appeal to the ear and the eye.

  1. Appeal to the ear

Use the power of the sound of words. Some panelists are lucky to have natural reflexes. Most think about using the sound of words before they present or are part of a panel.

Here are some pithy, memorable phrases that use the power of the sound of words:

“Emotion is the fast lane to the brain” Doug Stevenson

“Ink it when you think itSam(antha) Horn

“The truth will get you glee”  Guy Kawasaki 

(Here Guy uses the technique of taking a well known expression ‘The truth will set you free’ and makes it his own. He was making a point memorable about expressing the truth and harnessing the power of playful humour – something he is naturally gifted at!)

  2. Appeal to the eye

Two simple techniques to help you prepare to do this are:

(1) Compare the point you are making to something that your audience can ‘see’ in their imaginations. For example, Australian comedian Dave Hughes recently ‘stole the show’ on the ABC’s TV panel show QandA.  On his reaction to Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull meeting US President Donald Trump, Hughes used this very visual (and humorous image): “The vision was disturbing for me. I think Malcolm looked like a 13-year-old girl meeting Justin Bieber. It was too sycophantic.” 


dave hughes

This mental image certainly stood out and was actually quoted as the headline the next day by the media reporting on QandA.

This is the headline:

Hughes steals Q&A: ‘PM looked like a 13-year-old girl meeting Justin Bieber’


Talk about standing out!

Now, Hughes as a veteran comedian and media performer has great comedic reflexes and can think of witty reactions on the spot. When I help panelists prepare, we work together to think of visual comparisons.

(2) Use the power of gestures.  Science shows that words accompanied by gestures make the words more memorable. To help presenters and panelists make their messages memorable, one of the prep exercises is:

(it sounds silly, but it works!) I get them in a practice session to try to tell me their message by gestures only (like a charade.)  I’ll go into this further in part 2.


My main point to you is: if you have the opportunity to be a panelist, unless you are naturally gifted, put some work into making your messages memorable (and humorous).


*Influencers – are people who have influence through their large social media following through Instagram or youtube or other social media. Many influencers are influential via visual social media and yet are shy and lack confidence in live panel discussions.


One comment on “How to perform well on a panel discussion – Part 1/3

  1. doubleshot media
    October 25, 2017

    Reblogged this on doubleshot media and commented:

    If you are asked to be on a panel – don’t just turn up and ‘wing it’. Take advantage of the opportunity.

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