Giving an excellent presentation can be one of the surest ways to get forward in your career. As you become better known through active participation and speaking at organization meetings, you may be asked to participate in a panel as well. While they require a similar set of skills, it is also helpful to take additional steps to prepare. The more in-the-know you are, the less likely you are to go into a situation with sweaty palms and butterflies in your stomach.
How can you best prepare for a work-related speaking engagement?
First, gain as much insight from the person or organization who asked you to speak so that you can prepare. Ask questions about the meeting theme, the type of attendee, and the other presenters. When you're called upon to speak about a topic with a variety of angles, don't be afraid to suggest that it might be a key opportunity for a Panel Discussion.
What are the differences between a presentation vs. a panel discussion?
A presentation involves one speaker relaying information to an audience. With a presentation, you may be addressing a small group, meeting, briefing a team, or giving a speech to a large audience.
A panel consists of a group of experts or a small team that gives a presentation in front of an audience. Panel discussions are common at business, scientific, and academic conferences.
Whether you’ll be participating in a panel discussion or giving a presentation, there are several common elements you’ll need to adopt for success:
- Eye contact
- Tone of voice
- Body language
The way you present yourself is crucial at a speaking event. People are visual, and humans don’t just use words to communicate. People communicate through various, unspoken cues. The audience’s trust in you can either soar or diminish based on non-verbal cues such as eye contact, tone, and your gestures and posture.
The less nervous you are, the more natural and relaxed you’ll sound and appear. Sounding and looking relaxed and natural will put the audience at ease and engage them. Before your official speaking engagement, practice in front of a mirror or with a partner who can give you honest feedback on your tone and body language.
If you’re afraid to make direct eye contact with the audience, look at the wall at the back of the room, just above people’s heads. You’ll appear to be making direct eye-contact with members of the audience.
To prepare for a presentation, ask yourself the following questions before the event:
- Is it in a formal or informal setting?
- Who is my audience, and what is their experience level with the topic at hand?
- What does the audience expect to get out of the presentation?
- What equipment or amenities will be available for my presentation?
- Will the presentation take place in a new setting?
If you answer ‘yes’ to the last question, try to visit the setting beforehand. Knowing the layout and what equipment you’ll have available can help alleviate some of the unknowns, lessening your anxiety.
For a panel discussion, prepare for it like you would for a keynote speech. This way, you’ll be armed with plenty of information to entertain the audience or get your fellow panelists talking.
Also, research who will be on the panel and what their experience is before the event. If you can, try to interact with the other panelists before the event so you can build up a rapport. And always come armed with stories and anecdotes. This will make you seem real and relatable to your fellow panelists, and to the audience. Furthermore, don’t forget to keep your turn when speaking short and sweet. You don’t want to appear to steal the spotlight.
Even though public speaking can be terrifying, with the right amount of preparation, you can ace any speaking event even if you’re nervous. To help you prepare and stay organized during your presentation or panel discussion, print your speech on high-quality, bright and white double-sided Double A paper.