Tuesday, February 2, 2016

How to Run a Good Panel

Panels are fun, they are the reason I’ve stuck with conventions as long as I have.  They are a great way to learn about something you may be interested in, a way to meet people who love the same things as you do or to share that love with others by running a panel yourself.  I’ve been running panels for years now and I’ve had my share of disasters and triumphs so here are rules that I follow to run a successful panel:

Rule 1: Research
Always know about your topic.  Don’t rely on half remembered knowledge or dubious facts.  Also don’t think that you will remember everything during the con.  Write down notes, look up dates, if you can access them then read some books or articles on your subject of choice.  If you can’t find anything directly about your topic, then think of things that can relate to or influence it.  For my History of Yuri panel I ended up researching the history of Lesbianism in Japan and the history of girl’s novels and combined those two when talking about the influences on Yuri manga and anime.

Rule 2: Visuals
Try to have some sort of prop or presentation to go with your panel.  This can be a poster, books, figurines, or a full blown powerpoint.  It doesn’t need to be very involved or in depth.  Stay away from putting all your information on the screen.  The best thing to do is to have pictures that illustrate your points with perhaps a few lines of text per topic.   Pictures give people something to focus on and make a presentation more interesting and involved.  You can also use slides to promote conversation by having questions already prepared and on the screen.

NOTE: If you made powerpoint slides it's a good idea to convert them to PDF because powerpoint can sometimes lose its formatting and some computers aren't equipped with Microsoft office.

Rule 3: Practice
Do a practice run out loud, this will help you be more confident in your role and also see if there are any awkward or unnecessary parts in your presentation.  Doing a practice run also gives you an idea of what notes you will need to bring with you.  One or two runs should be enough.  You don’t need to memorize anything, just make sure you are comfortable with your material.

Rule 4: Arrive Early

Come to the room your panel will be in at least 10 minutes in advance.  This will let you set up your things and gives you a buffer to go to the bathroom if you need to.  You will also be able to deal with any technological problems that may arise (and they always do).  It is always good practice to check ahead of time that whatever technology you are using is compatible with whatever technology the con has.  Many people have been crushed to find out that the con doesn't have an adapter for their Mac and that there are no PCs free for them to use instead.

NOTE: ALWAYS check your equipment before starting.  It's good to constantly check that your computer or tablet are working, that your mouse has enough batteries and that Windows won't start randomly updating at the most inconvenient time (speaking from experience).

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