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  • Bruce Rule

How to Be a Successful Panelist When Public Speaking (Part 2)

Bruce Rule appearing on self-publishing panel. Rule Communications
Use Hand Gestures and Eye Contact To Help Make Your Points

In the previous post I detailed a number of things that you can do to be a successful panelist when public speaking. That post focused on things you can do from the time you are invited up to taking the stage.


Now let’s talk about what you can do during the panel and afterwards to make the appearance a success.


1.  Sit near the center of the panel if you can, making sure every in attendance has a clear view of you. Of course, many times you don’t have a choice of seats. But if the chair is turned slightly or in an awkward spot for you to make eye contact with the audience, turn it so the audience can see you.

I recently appeared on a panel of nine authors discussing how to be successful in self-publishing. Even though we were seated in alphabetical order, I lucked out by being near the center of the panel despite having a last name that started with the letter “r.” Being in the center enabled me to make eye contact much easier with the entire room.


2.  Sit up correctly. In other words, no slouching. Keep your body open and slightly lean forward to show you are confident and eager to share your thought. If your entire body can be seen by the audience, you should either keep your feet flat on the floor or cross your legs at the ankles. (Note: if the event is informal, you might get away with crossing your legs at the knee. But I don’t recommend it.)

3.  Keep your hands in sight if you are at a table or podium. Use appropriate hand gestures, keeping palms outward as much as possible. When not speaking keep your hands flat on the table or clasp your hands together on the table. Do not cross your arms or lean on your elbows. Your forearms should be the only part of your arms that touch the table. Eye Contact

4.  Make eye contact with the audience with the audience when speaking. Just as you would when on stage alone, divide the audience into quadrants and shift your gaze from one quadrant to another in a random pattern. Pick a person in that quadrant, speaking for a complete thought or about five seconds, then move on. Try to include everyone as the event goes on. For more on how to make good eye contact see here. Even when you are asked a question by the moderator or another panelist, don’t forget that your main target should be the audience. So look at the moderator or panelist when they are speaking, acknowledge the question, then turn and speak to the audience. As you finish turn back to your questioner to signal you are done in case there is a follow-up.

5.  Show that you are paying attention when the moderator, another panelist or an audience member is speaking. Look at the person speaking and nod or make appropriate gestures indicating that you listening. If you need to lean forward to make eye contact with another panelist, do so. Do not slouch or sit back with your arms crossed.

If you have something to add to what another panelist has said, ask the moderator if you can follow-up. If an audience member asks a question to the panel as a whole, ask the moderator if you can answer it. Keep in mind that you should not hog all the time allowed and that you should be respectful to the other panelists and audience members who speak. Don't Be a Blabbermouth

6.  Speak up only when you have something of value to add. Otherwise remain silent. Do not feel that you have to jump in on every topic or on every general question. Nothing turns off an audience than someone who is a blabbermouth.

7.   Thank the moderator and the other panelists once the event ends. If you can, do it in public view right on stage. Otherwise approach them before they leave. Keep in mind that they too are your audience, and should be treated with respect.

8.  Speak with as many audience members as you can afterwards. Build in plenty of time so you can build as many personal connections as you can. Thank them for coming and, if they asked a question, see if the panel answered it or if they have a follow-up. If they didn’t ask a question, see if they have anything they want to ask you.

9.  Get as many emails and contact details as you can. Have a sign-up sheet available if appropriate. If that isn’t allowed, ask audience members for their business cards and offer them yours.

Follow up in the following days, thanking them again for coming and letting them know you are available if they have any questions. Also mention that you would like to include them on your email list so you can alert them to your personal appearances and new products and services. But make it clear that you won’t contact them again if they say they don’t want you to.

If you follow the tips above and the ones from the previous post you will increase your chances of having a successful panel appearance. 






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