As I’ve been out in the community going to events and spreading the word about Greenhorn Connect, I’ve seen my share of panel discussions. One lesson I’ve learned from all those panels is that regardless of how the panel itself went or if you think you have a great idea, question or thought to share with a panelist, you generally don’t gain much by approaching panelists after events.
Every conversation with a panelist has generally gone the same. They’re tired. They just want to go home/run and catch their plane/get a drink. They’ve heard a million pitches thanks to all the other panels they’ve been on and so they’re usually on autopilot in the conversation trying to just find the quickest way to the exit. I totally understand this and respect this.
So what do I recommend you do instead? If you have a great thought…make sure you share it during the Q&A. If you didn’t get to…use it as a conversation topic with other members of the audience. Anyone who doesn’t run up to approach the panelist is also likely to be more interested in making meaningful networking connections and share good conversation.
Please don’t take this as a jab at panelists. In fact, this is more of a recognition of the difficulties of being a panelist. It is rightfully tiring to be on a panel and usually if you’re part of the panel, it’s because you’re an influential/important person in the area of discussion, which likely means you’re insanely busy. I also know that many people are dying to talk to you just so they can say they did or to dump their pitch on you or push their business card down your throat. I never want to be that person and so I generally now make it a rule not to bother approaching panelists I don’t already know well. I’d rather talk to a few more of the people in the audience that obviously shared my interest in the topic of the panel and make those meaningful connections that won’t just lead to the awkward “I’ll contact you in a month or two” and “sorry, I forgot my business cards” kind of discussions.
**Disclaimer #1** If you have something exceptionally relevant to discuss with a panelist and this is the only chance you’ll ever have to talk to them, then by all means, approach them. I think in general though, you’re better off working through your network to get an introduction to the person; this qualifies you and gives more context than “another eager audience member that wants to give me their card…”
**Disclaimer #2** If I’m ever on a panel, please don’t think this post means I don’t want to talk to you. Just realize that you should have more to say than “you should hear my pitch” or “I’d like to meet you.” Is there something related to what I’m working on or something I talked about in the panel that’s particularly relevant to what you’re doing or a question you have?