Congratulations! You’re moderating a careers panel for the Laidlaw Scholars’ Network – this is very exciting. You have an amazing opportunity to learn from established professionals in your chosen field of interest and get lots of tips on how to get your career started.
The downside, of course, is that preparing to host your panel event can also be quite stressful – you don’t want anything to go wrong on the day, especially as the sessions are being recorded for posterity online. Having gone through this process myself (and survived!), I’d like to offer you my top five tips for hosting a successful and stress-free careers panel.
- Write a script. Yes, it sounds like overkill, but having a script really helped me to keep track of the panel as it progressed and ensured that I didn’t forget to mention anything important. My advice is to write an introduction and conclusion for the panel in which you thank all of the relevant people and lay out the ground rules, as well as scripting your questions. Speaking of which…
- Have too many questions. It can’t hurt to over-prepare in these circumstances so I’d recommend coming up with more questions than you will need. As you’ll only be asking questions for half an hour, around fifteen questions will be more than enough (I had thirteen). My questions were divided into three sections (sector, the careers of my panellists, and their advice for aspiring professionals) and each section was allotted a certain amount of time. This gave me a strong structure to work from and made time keeping easy (you don’t want to overrun!). Of course, you won’t get around to asking all of your questions during the panel, but that’s okay - it’s better than running out of things to say twenty minutes in.
- Do your research. There’s no point asking your panellists generalised questions about their profession. You (and your audience) will learn a lot more from precise questions which are custom-made for each guest. Plus, it shows respect to your panellists - they will appreciate you taking the time to do this properly.
- Practise, practise, practise. In the mirror, on the phone, in your sleep. It’s really important for your hosting to go as smoothly as possible and that only comes from practising in advance. I found running through my script a week before the panel was really helpful and ensured that there were no slip-ups on the day. And for goodness’ sake make sure you know your panellists’ names!
- Accept that things are going to go wrong. Maybe you’ll run in to technical problems. Perhaps one of your panellists will speak for longer than their fair share of time. Your audience might get camera-shy and you’ll find yourself in the audience question part of the panel with no audience questions to ask. Regardless of how well you prepare, something will always go awry. This nothing to worry about – just do your best to get back on track and don’t beat yourself up about it.
And that’s it - you’re well on your way to hosting a fabulous careers panel! This is going to be a fun and exciting journey, so make the most of it and enjoy the ride. I look forwards to seeing all of your brilliant work in future – good luck!