February 19, 2012

Speaking As A Panelist

(Congratulations to club members Anita Nickerson, Jonathan Holowka and Promod Sharma. This week, they used their Toastmaster skills as the panelists for a session on Modern Marketing Methods for the Canadian Association of Management Consultants in downtown Toronto — Editor)
  Promod Sharma
by Promod Sharma, President 2011-2012

If you're uncomfortable speaking to strangers on your own, consider participating on panels. There are several advantages:
  1. shared load
  2. speech elements
  3. audience questions
We’ll explore each.

panelShared Load

As a panelist, you don't need to do as much. The moderator has the tougher role. You'll have a general idea of the questions. You may even get the moderator’s list in advance. Feel free to practice answering but don't read from notes. You're on the panel because you're an expert. That means speaking primarily from memory.

Speech Elements

As a panelist, you'll likely get some time to speak. Perhaps 5-15 minutes. Prepare as you would for a speech.  Since other panelists are likely sitting in a row beside you, you aren’t alone. Stand, if possible.

If you're planning to use slides, let the moderator and organizer know in advance.  You may be asked to provide a copy of your presentation on a memory stick so that all speakers use one computer. Emailing a copy in advance is good insurance.

Audience Questions

You won't have time to prepare for questions from the audience. This is your opportunity to practice the impromptu speaking skills you develop with Table Topics. You have an extra advantage. Your audience will ask questions related to the topic.

If a question is beyond the scope of the panel, the moderator will likely intervene. A more experienced panelist might too. If the question still gets to you, you don't need to give an answer.

If you're unsure of the answer, another panelist might answer first. That gives you more time to prepare.


As you become an experienced panelist, you're feel more comfortable. You'll be able to listen to the whole question before formulating your response. You'll be able to build on answers given by other panelists and work together as a team.

Recording the session let's you re-experience the session and improve for next time


Promod Sharma has been blogging about risk and marketing for 5 years — 500 posts and 250,000 words. For more details, visit promodsharma.com.

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