How to Ace a Panel Discussion



When you think about most panel discussions what type of panelists do you picture? If your answer is like most, you'll probably say more senior, higher level panelists. This makes a certain amount of sense because the audience wants to learn from the experience of the panel.

However, there is one potential drawback. Last time I checked, my daily experience is a lot different than that of most, C-Suite executives or Partners. Nothing against them, but it can be hard to connect with their experience when it feels so far removed from my own. And truth be told, sometimes they have a hard time connecting and remembering what it was like on the way up.

At a recent panel on Leadership that I moderated, we intentionally selected more everyday employees. Accomplished and experienced for sure, but at more typical levels like manager and below.

Our panelists were less accustomed to presenting to a room full of 100 peers so we coached them all along the way. One piece of advice that they all seemed to take to heart and benefit from was how to make a tasty presentation sandwich.


You know when someone goes to get an award and trips and stumbles? That will challenge even the most poised professional in the following moments. So to help avoid tripping over your first few words, my advice is to nail down your first sentence. Hard. Don't just wing it. Figure out the words of your first sentence and repeat them out loud until they are tattooed on your mind. This gives you the poise and confidence for all that follows = the tasty middle of your sandwich.

Likewise, you should nail down your last words. Ever have an amazing meal and during your last bite it is ruined by a bad taste, off-putting comment or horrible smell? What do you remember? The 99% good or the final 1% horrible? So make a good first and last impression = top and bottom pieces of bread.

If you do this, you will end up serving the audience a tasty presentation sandwich. Good luck! 


By the way, our panelists were all amazing and we had great interaction from the audience. Not bad for their first time out and something for them to build on.

Next post next Saturday, 6:30 a.m.