Speaking on a panel? 3 tips from @DeckerBen [Video]

If you’re invited to speak on a panel, you’ll want to make the most of your preparation (and your time on stage). So to help you prepare, and then take part effectively, here’s a handy 2-minute video.

In it, you’ll find 3 tips from Ben Decker, CEO of Decker Communications. And below the video, you’ll find many ideas and links to expand on Ben’s tips:

Ben starts with a neat point about the context of panel discussions:

“It can be such a great honour
to be invited to be a part of a panel.

People want to hear
your… expertise
– your opinions
Ben Decker

So, especially if you’re nervous, keep in mind that people value your insights.

Ben then shares his action-based tips for speaking on a panel:

  1. Don’t script out your answer.
  2. What change do you want from your audience?
  3. Stay present.

Let’s look at each of those in turn


1. Don’t script out your answer (At 0:21)Scroll to Contents ↑

The core of Ben’s point here is this:

“Instead of having [what you say] scripted,
think of it in buckets – in ideas –
because that will make you
much more

Ben Decker – at 0:38

You don’t know how the topics will flow

I love Ben’s insight about thinking in terms of ideas (rather than working from a script). That lets you speak freely – both about each idea, and when you move from one idea to the next. (The latter’s crucial on a panel, because you don’t know how the topics will flow.)

Under the stress of being on stage, speaking freely’s actually much easier than remembering a script. Plus, it’s far more pleasant and engaging for your audience!

I know that having a script can seem like it takes the pressure off you. But in fact it’s the opposite. So if you’re having trouble giving up on a script, try the following tips instead

Alliteration or rhyme or the Rule of 3 are really helpful here

Use a “mini call-back” – for punch
Rather than using a script, I suggest you take 1 or 2 of your main ideas and structure each of them as a “mini call-back” – like in the example below. And rhetorical devices like alliteration or rhyme or the Rule of 3 are really helpful here, too.

For instance, suppose you’ll be speaking on a panel about how to host a webinar, and you want to share 1 or 2 of these 10 webinar tips. You’ll want to make what you say as memorable as you can – and even make it go viral if at all possible. So while preparing for the event, you might decide that you’ll:

End with a key phrase you used near the start

  • Share the tip that rhymes (which is tip #10).
  • Say it 3 times on the day.
  • Structure the tip as a “mini call-back”, meaning you’ll end with a key phrase you used near the start.

Then, when you’re on the panel, you’d actually word that in an impromptu way, saying something like:

“To help make your webinar a success, you can
use what I call the invest, test, jest approach.

In other words:

  • Invest ample time when you prepare.
  • Test your webinar setup as realistically as you can.
  • And if something still goes wrong when you’re live,
    jest about it to show you’re not fazed by it.

So remember – invest, test, jest!


2. What change do you want from your audience? (At 0:47)Scroll to Contents ↑

When you speak, I believe it’s vital to seek change. So it’s neat that Ben includes making change among his 3 tips for speaking on a panel.

He says:

“You’re taking time away from
your day for a reason –
you want some sort of change

…think of an example or a
story to make it come alive.

We call those SHARPs”
Ben Decker – at 0:51

SHARP stands for:

  • S   Story
  • H   Humour
  • A   Analogy
  • R   Reference (which is typically a quote)
  • P   Picture

Using a SHARP is extremely helpful on a panel

Using a SHARP is extremely helpful on a panel. That’s because you’re competing with the other panellists for audience attention (and to be memorable).

You might be thinking you won’t be able to use any pictures, because you probably can’t easily use slides during a panel. But, a great technique is to plant a picture in people’s heads by asking people to imagine a specific situation.

For instance, if you’re speaking about business security, you might say something like:

“Picture the door to your office.
[Pause – to let people picture that for a few seconds.]
Now, imagine it has police tape across it…”

Using mental imagery like that helps you imprint your message in people’s memories – and again stand out from your fellow panellists.

OPQRS is about making your key message stand out

Other ways to stand out and inspire change
By the way, SHARP has quite similar content to my own “OPQRS” mnemonic. Like SHARP, OPQRS is about making your key message stand out (and stick in people’s minds).

OPQRS stands for:

SHARPs or OPQRS give you the edge over other speakers

Whenever you speak or present, I highly recommend you use techniques like SHARPs or OPQRS to give you the edge over other speakers. And that’s especially true in a panel situation, because (in effect) you’re in direct competition with the other panellists.


3. Stay present (At 1:15)Scroll to Contents ↑

Ben’s final tip is about interacting with the panel’s other members. In talking about what another panellist might share, he says:

“If it’s funny or
if you’re interested…
dive into it – interrupt!”
Ben Decker – at 1:28

Dynamic panels are far more engaging

Dynamic panels like that are far more engaging for the audience. And that’ll make it much more likely that your message’ll spread beyond the speaking venue – via social-media posts by the audience. So I think this is another great tip from Ben.


Over to youScroll to Contents ↑

As a reminder, here are Ben’s tips again:

  1. Don’t script out your answer.
  2. What change do you want from your audience?
  3. Stay present.


  • What are your views about panels?
  • How do Ben’s tips compare with what you’ve seen? (either as a panellist or as an audience member)

Why not comment on this post? Your thoughts will enrich this discussion – for all of us.

In the meantime, thanks for reading!

Helpful post? If so, please share it via the social-media buttons below the following list of links. Many thanks.


See alsoScroll to Contents ↑


4 thoughts on “Speaking on a panel? 3 tips from @DeckerBen [Video]

  1. Perfect timing–I’m promoting a panel presentation that is tonight! I just sent the panel facilitator the post to share with the panelists! I also appreciate the summary/commentary.


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