Paneling for Profit By Eric D. Goodman

Writers should consider paneling for profit. No, I’m not advocating a side job doing home improvements. Writers tend to be primed for discussion panels.

A few years ago, if you’d asked me to serve on a panel discussion at a conference, I’d have run the other way. But after sitting in on several, I’ve discovered that it can actually be rewarding…and a lot of fun. Not to mention, many paneling gigs offer a modest stipend to go along with the marketing and networking opportunities.

Have you considered participating in a panel discussion? If you have some tips, techniques, or unique experiences that you think others could learn from, you should consider looking into it. You may find, as I did, that you’ll be doing more than sharing your knowledge…you’ll be gaining a little, too.

There are a number of opportunities: consider contacting local writing organizations, conferences, and festivals. And if you put your mind to it, you might offer your talking-head talents on a number of other topics besides writing itself.

For example, if you write about gardening, you could offer to talk about writing as well as gardening; if you write about trains, you might offer your talents to local train enthusiasts and historic railroad organizations as well as to the local writing venues.

Here are a few things to keep in mind if you’re thinking about participating in a panel discussion.

  • Know your subject and stick to it. Sure you have a vast knowledge of subjects to share, but be sure that you understand exactly what the organizers want. Are you supposed to come with talking points or just sit back and answer questions? Should you be sharing personal experience or keeping to the facts? Are you expected to introduce yourself? Don’t be caught off guard. Simple things can become awkward when you’re put on the spot in front of an audience.
  • You are not alone. If you’re sitting up there with three other panel members, be aware of how much time you’re monopolizing and give equal time to your co-panelists. At the same time, help each other out. If a panelist doesn’t seem sure how to answer, feel free (after a moment) to jump in and save the fumble.
  • Listen to the audience. If you have twenty or more people sitting in the audience, there’s a good chance that at least one has as much or more experience than you do. Listen to their questions carefully. And if they want to make comments or share their experiences, let them. In fact, you might want to take notes. Teachers can learn a lot from students.
  • Respect your partners. Even if you disagree with something someone else on the panel says or you feel they’re giving misleading information, don’t call them out. Offer your own opinion as just that…an opinion.
  • Pay Attention. If you’re open what you’re hearing instead of only focusing on what you have to say, you may learn more from your partners than they learn from you. With the right attitude, you can take away from the session as much as you contribute.
  • Remember, it’s just a discussion. Don’t feel like you have to be polished and perfect. One difference between a speech and a panel discussion is that you’re just talking. Be sincere and know your subject.

So, if given the opportunity to share your expertise in a panel discussion, go for it. I found it to be a rewarding experience while I sat in the hot chair. (And, wanna know a secret? When I was sitting up there sharing tips with the audience, I was marketing my own writing, too.)

Eric D. Goodman is a full-time writer and editor. His debut novel in stories, Tracks, was published by Atticus Books this June. You can learn more about Tracks at http://www.TracksNovel.com, where you can hear radio readings, read excerpts, find out about scheduled events, and more.