Tips & Tricks: Panels

Tips & Tricks for Moderating a Panel

Whether you’re having several panelists or flying solo, presenting a panel at a convention can be nerve-wracking. Even at a con as welcoming and laid back as Confab! Here are a few tips and tricks to getting over your modding anxiety.

Be prepared!

the hyenas from the animated Disney film the Lion King laugh in a pile of bones. "Yeah, be prepared. Yeah-heh... we'll be prpared, hh... For what?"

Having at least an outline of what you want to say can help make you more comfortable at the front of the room. Don’t worry about sticking to a script – things are going to pop into your head as you’re speaking, and if they’re relevant you should share them – but at least have a guideline to keep everything on track. Audio and visual material can supplement your presentation, and keep things interactive and fun. Just make sure to let the con comm know your tech needs in advance!

Open it up.

Julia Stiles gestures at the viewer-slash-camera and makes a "go on" gesture to her left.

If you have co-panelists, make sure you provide them plenty of time to talk. Give them some topics or questions ahead of time so they can be just as prepared as you. If you’re presenting alone, leave things open for audience participation, or build it right into your outline. People love to ask questions or provide their thoughts and opinions, and they should be encouraged to do so. Practice different ways to facilitate the conversation, both to get it going but also to rein it in if necessary. Keep the time in mind; it’s okay to gently cut the convo short if you have more material you want to cover before the end of the panel!

Manage your expectations.

A close-up of Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day singing into a microphone. "It's something unpredictable, but in the end is right."

The best laid plans, etc. We all know how unpredictable things can be. Sometimes you have a hot crowd, who seems super into what you’re showing and telling, and have a lot to offer in response. Sometimes the room is quiet. Don’t fret! Remember that all you can control is your presentation (and not even always that). If you do your best and be yourself, the experience will be enjoyable for everyone no matter what. Even if the attendees are too sleep-deprived (or hungover) to properly express their appreciation. Have a couple versions of your panel prepped — a more bare bones one for an audience with lots of questions and comments, and a longer one for a quieter group.

And most importantly: have fun! We can’t wait to hear what you have to say.

Other tricks

  1. Giveaways! Talking MCU? Head to a Dollar Tree and grab some stickers. Or get a couple of small prizes and ask some trivia questions!
  2. Look through tumblr tags for your topic and pick out some interesting meta to describe/discuss.
  3. Promote your panel ahead of time on social media. Pals who won’t be attending the con can give you ideas for stuff to cover while you’re still in planning mode.