If you’re a leader thinking about raising your profile and visibility, delivering a talk at an industry conference is a wonderful vehicle.

But it can be intimidating.

Consider moderating a panel discussion, instead, which conveys visibility without such a bright spotlight.

12 Tips:

  • Wear clothing in which you feel comfortable and confident and is appropriate to the event. This is more important that you might think.  You want your mind focused on what you’re saying and not on what you’re wearing or on feeling self-conscious.
  • Meet with panelists and conference organizers in advance (not the day of the event) to discuss the topics and kinds of questions you’ll be asking. Ask if there’s anything panelists don’t want to discuss.  This will put everyone – including you – at ease.
  • Understand your audience and what’s most important and relevant to them. One of the most effective ways to do this is to ask conference organizers to select a handful of registrants for you to speak with before the event.
  • Prepare your thoughts and questions in advance and have them printed out so you can read them at a glance. Spend enough time with them so that you know the general themes and can ask questions naturally and with smooth segues.
  • Be prepared to think on your feet and follow topics that aren’t on your list.
  • Have more questions prepared than you’ll have time for but focus on the most pertinent.
  • Before you begin, know how you’ll monitor the time in a discreet way. This is key to pacing the discussion.  An hour will go by remarkably fast.
  • Refrain from asking the same question of each panelist each time more than once or twice. Switching up the questions to the panelists builds momentum for the discussion.
  • Ease in with some easy questions to buy the panelists time to warm up.
  • Keep the focus on the panelists and not on yourself. You are there to lead and facilitate the discussion.  Your questions showcase you and your thinking.
  • Don’t forget to involve the audience. Depending on the size of the event, consider interspersing Q&A at different points throughout the panel discussion rather than leaving it for ten minutes at the end.  Audience involvement drives energy and excitement.
  • Ask someone in the audience to take pictures of you leading the discussion. And then post them to LinkedIn or wherever you’re trying to create more professional visibility.  Many of my clients have a difficult time deliberately drawing attention to themselves, and a photo of this kind speaks for itself.  Let it.



For more on working together to prepare for a high-stakes presentation, drop me a note at: sarah@sarah-levitt.com