Earlier this year I had the awesome opportunity to speak on a blogger and influencer panel at Tampa Bay Startup Week. The topic our panel spoke on was about working with brands. I was one of three participants on the panel. Leading up to it, I was a ball of nerves. I had never spoken on a panel before, let alone to a room full of people that wanted to learn from my experiences on this subject. As I took my seat on the panel row, I looked to Ben in the crowd. I found a quick sense of comfort sitting in the chair at the front of the room. As our moderator (hi Caitlyn! – check her out here) asked questions to our panel, I could feel myself getting giddily excited. My blogging journey is something I’m so passionate about. Talking about my experience of working with brands to an audience felt more like talking about it to a room full of friends.
I loved getting the chance to speak on Tampa Bay Startup Week’s panel. I often refer to it as one of my favorite experiences so far as a blogger. Have you ever spoken on a panel? Are you preparing to do so? You’re in luck. Welcome to the post where I’m sharing the tips I practiced before the session, as well as a couple of tips I learned day of.
Get business cards made and have them ready to hand out.
You never know when you’ll be able to make a new connection. Instead of hovering over someone’s phone and risking another infamous Instagram outage of 2019 while trying to pull up your profile, just hand the person a business card. This way all of your information is right there and they have it handy to reference later. I had been putting off making business cards for the longest time. This panel opportunity was the push I needed to get it done. I ordered my business cards from Office Depot literally two days beforehand.
Ask for the list of questions your panel will be asked ahead of time.
HASHTAG LIFESAVER. If the list of questions is not offered to you by your moderator then ask for them. Luckily our mod was awesome and sent our question list out ahead of time. The more prep you can get in, the better. Keep in mind that not every single question on the list may be asked, but at least you’ll get a general idea of what to expect. With the questions in your possession, you’ll be able to create some bullet points to chat about for when it’s go time.
Prepare to talk with folks from the audience after the session ends.
This was NOT something I expected to happen. I just figured once the session was over, people would head out on their way. I’m glad they didn’t. Audience members will likely come up to the front to chat more with you once the session ends. They’re interested, they’re excited. They might even have specific questions for you, opportunities to ask you about, and will likely want to swap business cards with you (see first tip).
Speak from experience and speak at a normal pace.
I have a bad habit of talking really fast when I get nervous. When answering panel questions or talking to a room full of people it’s important to make a conscious effort to slowwwww it down. Speak clearly and from your own experience. You want to ensure that your audience leaves with authentic nuggets of wisdom.
Do what you need to do to make yourself feel like your most confident self.
Look good, feel good amirite? Get a mani, go get your hair freshened up, buy a new outfit to wear. Whatever does the trick. If all eyes are going to be on you while you speak, then it’s important that you feel like your best self.
Make sure you allow yourself enough time to deal with traffic and parking at the venue you’re speaking at. The last thing you want to do is be the one running up to your empty chair at the front of the room as your session is starting. Arriving early allows you to scope out the room that you’ll be speaking in. This way you can…
Make sure your photographer gets a good seat in the crowd.
This point could prove that I put too much thought into everything. Ben attended my session (of course) for support and to capture some snaps. I wanted to make sure that he had a good seat to do so (not too close, not too far). Gotta hit them angles, and it’s easier to make sure your Instagram hubs can hit them when you arrive early to get the perfect seat. **professional photos in this post were taken by Amie Santavicca (her Instagram page can be found here)
Have fun with it – it’s all relative.
Look, everyone gets a little nervous when they speak in front of a room full of people. Embrace it. Talk to the audience like they’re a group of friends. They want to hear from you. Laugh at yourself if it’s relevant to the experience that you’re speaking about. Talk about what’s worked for you. Don’t shy away from talking about the stories that cover what hasn’t worked for you (that’s when you learn the most valuable lessons anyway). Nobody wants to hear from a stiff robo-person. You’re a real human that has had real experiences. Share them.
Thoughts on these tips? What would you add? Which panels have you spoken on before and how was your experience? Let me know in the comments below.
Professional photography shot by Amie Santavicca. Her Instagram page can be found here.