Welcome to the voxgig newsletter for tech speakers, 22 June 2018
Once you’ve spoken at few conferences and proven yourself to be a safe pair of hands, you’ll very quickly get called on to participate in a panel discussion. Panel discussions are used by conference organizers to break up a series of talks, bring in experts who may not have time to prepare a talk, and fill in for missing speakers. If you want to raise your profile, it’s always a good idea to let the organizer know that you’re up for participating in, and leading, panel discussions.
Being a participant on a panel is a nice gig. If you know your subject matter, you can wing it. Even if you don’t, just let the other participants take more air time, or tell relevant personal stories, and you’ll be fine.
Leading a discussion is a different matter. It requires preparation. A badly prepared moderator is easy to spot and things will get cringey pretty fast. I’ve even seen panels turn against moderators—nobody likes to have their reputation damaged by association with a poor performer on stage.
So you’ve stepped up and you’re going to lead a panel. What do you do?
The first thing is to make contact with all the participants. The best way to do this is to send out a group email with a list of potential subjects and questions, and ask for feedback. This step does three things: its lets the participants know that they are dealing with someone safe who will prepare; it relieves them of some work by providing a framework for what to discuss; and it also lets them put forward ideas and topics that they can speak about informatively. (This is important. The whole point of the panel is that they are experts—you should discuss things they are familiar with!)
If you are due to be on a panel and have not heard from the moderator, you need to be proactive. Push the event organizer and the moderator to do some preparation. I’ve had to join panels where no preparatory work was done—they did not go well, and I was not a happy camper.
If you get the preparation right, the panel will go much more smoothly. Your biggest challenge will be to get panelists to stop speaking. This is where you have to fight your natural instincts—you need to be a bit rude and cut them off. They won’t mind, it is expected. It is your job to keep the topics moving and watch the time.
Interruptions are something to be especially watchful for. Some panelists, mostly men, have a tendency to interrupt other panelists, mostly women. It’s a real phenomenon and you may not notice it until you look for it.
When you do see it, and count the occurences, it’s surprisingly prevalent. Your job as leader of the panel is redirect air time back to the interrupted speaker. Go back to them and ask them to finish their point. You may have to be very direct in getting the interrupter to stop speaking, but again, that’s the job.
I have yet to see this done properly at any conference I’ve been to, and must confess to not being very good at it myself, but I think panel discussion in general would be more valuable for it.
I am delighted to announce that voxgig is starting a podcast series! The title of the series is 'Fireside with voxgig'. In each podcast, I'll be interviewing leading experts from the events industry. The aim is to deliver high quality insights, valuable public speaking tips and enjoyable personal success stories, all in a relaxed, informal and chatty style. Keep an eye out here for the first podcast in the series, coming soon.
Leading a panel discussion takes a certain amount of planning and thought to ensure smooth execution and lively discussion. Maria Ressa leads this panel confidently though the discussion, transitions smoothly to each panelist, and keeps the discussion lively. As each panelist speaks, she physically positions herself in their direction and also addresses the audience to keep them engaged. One point to note is the placement of the chairs; they are placed facing inward rather than in a straight row, immediately bringing the group together.
Learn from the Best
Working with leaders at Fortune 500 companies, startups and nonprofits, Ben Decker, CEO of Decker Communications, has earned his reputation as an expert in his field. These tips are invaluable for any panel moderator.
What is your biggest challenge as a tech speaker?
This newsletter is for you. I want it to include hints, tips and strategies that resonate with you.
So go ahead, hit reply and tell me what aspects of conference speaking you would like me to focus on.
Book of the Week
Even an experienced speaker like Guy Kawasaki says, “Moderating a panel is deceptively hard—harder, in fact, than keynoting”. That's partly because everyone's expecting the moderator to be a magician who can keep the speakers on time and on topic, manage all the audience questions, and meet the organizer's expectations for a sparkling discussion that brings people into the room—all without preparation, since you're magically supposed to know what to do.
Graveline was an expert in her field and coached over 100 TEDx speakers. This book is full of useful checklists to organise yourself as a moderator and conduct your panel like a proemail fessional.
If you're an expert who enjoys sparring with your peers, then your PR dream team will probably pitch you as a panelist extraordinaire. The moderator slot, which is often the most challenging, is typically saved for the best listeners who also have a knack for the "art of conversation." These folks are great at improvisation, know a tremendous amount about any given subject, and understand what it takes to avoid facilitating an audience slumber party.
- Hong Kong, China
- Mon 9 Jul 2018 to Thu 12 Jul 2018
- Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre
- Standard ticket: $680
Join the largest tech gathering in Asia with access to over 13 conferences with one ticket! RISE is produced by the team behind Web Summit, which has become Europe’s largest tech conference. Four days of international learning, with countless workshops and over 1,000 talks, plus networking with thousands of attendees. All of this in a city that is building a global technology and innovation hub - Hong Kong.
- FullStack 2018
- London, England
- Wed 11 Jul 2018 to Fri 13 Jul 2018
- Business Design Centre
- Standard ticket: 850
Mid-Atlantic Developers Conference
- Mid-Atlantic Developers Conference
- Baltimore, Maryland, USA
- Fri 13 Jul 2018 to Sat 14 Jul 2018
- Maritime Conference Center
- Standard ticket: $295
No matter what your choice of platform, this conference has you covered! Designed to bring together programmers for two full days of learning and building a stronger community. The host city, Baltimore, offers lots of sightseeing, arts & culture, and museums. It’s also the birthplace of the United States National Anthem.
These are the CFP deadline dates and submission pages.
- Sat 30 Jun 2018, JavaDay Equador, Quito, Ecuador
- Sat 30 Jun 2018, Droids 4 Droids Columbia, Medellin, Columbia
- Sat 30 Jun 2018, Regional SCRUM Gathering, Durbin, South Africa
- Tue 3 Jul 2018, Codemotion Milan, Milan, Italy
- Tue 3 Jul 2018, Codemotion Berlin, Berlin, Germany
Do you speak at conferences? Want to learn how to give the very best talks? Or are you just starting out and want to overcome the fear of speaking on stage?
We are running speaker training workshops in Dublin and London, in Ireland and the U.K. over the coming months.
There is a 10% OFF early bird discount.
To find out more follow the links below.
Dublin, Ireland - Tuesday July 17, 2018 | More Details
London, UK - Thursday October 18, 2018 | More Details
London, UK - Thursday November 8, 2018 | More Details
Can I ask you for a favour? If you enjoy this newsletter, and if you find it useful, please consider recommending it to a friend who is learning to give technical talks, or who aspires to do so. I meet so many cool programmers who have brilliant things to share with the world—that’s you!
Please help me to improve this newsletter - I'd love to hear your suggestions! You can email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can tweet too: @voxgig. Thank you so much for reading!
A special thanks and shout out to Tammy, Cora, and David for helping to make this newsletter even better!