I am in no way the “end all, be all” when it comes to panels. In fact, I’ve only been a part of three in the 4 years that I have been going to conventions. But here are some tips to a well organized panel!
BEFORE YOU APPLY
• Make sure that before you apply for a panel that you (and your group) have plenty of time to plan out all the content that you will be presenting. If you feel like you will not have enough time to appropriately prepare due to prior commitments, then maybe this convention is not the right one for your panel.
• Try to pick a topic that you know a lot about. Of course you don’t have to be an expert by any means, but it really helps to know some idiosyncrasies of the series that you are representing.
• Talk it out with your group and see what you want to cover, if you all disagree, maybe you should break the panel apart into two completely differing topics and run both panels.
AS YOU APPLY
• Try to write a very concise description of what your panel will consist of. How will people that are fans of the series know to come to your panel if they have no idea what it’s about?
• Do try to keep the description brief, though. If you get into a lot of details, you may lose people that are new to the series.
• Keep in mind that a catchy title may draw in fans and non-fans of a series alike. If you name something “KINGDOM HEARTS!” you may draw a thin audience because you give no description of what the panel is about. “Kingdom Hearts: A Key to the Past and Future” may quite possibly be that bridging factor from the old and new, thus showing fans and non-fans that you are going to cover everything in the series and can give newbies a little inside info as to what they can get into.
• Make sure to list any kinds of cables or equipment that you think that you could need for your panel. If you require microphones, then make sure to ask for them. (Unless the convention/hotel/convention center is already supplying them. Even then it is a good idea to put down any things that you KNOW that you will need just to be doubly sure.) I
N THE WEEKS LEADING TO THE CONVENTION
• Make sure that you have everything together. If you’re making a power point, start it several weeks to several months before you are slated to give the presentation. This way you can ensure that you have everything that you want to talk about in the presentation. Have some friends that know the series as well as, or better, than you do and ask for opinions.
• If you’re offering prizes, go ahead and start them as soon as you get the okay from con officials about your panel being accepted.
• Write up a loose script or some bulleted points to practice with in the mean time. It’s better to know what you will be discussing than to wing it. You don’t have to practice it like a speech, but DO know your major points. If you know the major points, then you can expound on them when the time comes in your panel.
• If you plan on wearing a Cosplay to your panel, try to make sure that it makes sense with the theme. Nothing confuses me more than walking into a panel and seeing Maka Albarn sitting next to Goku for a Naruto panel…. If you do not have the appropriate cosplay for the theme, then maybe have a banner announcing the panel’s name or have some kind of indicator that they are in the correct panel.
• Make a checklist of everything that you will need for your panel. This will be such a lifesaver the day before the convention.
• By the way, if someone is not pulling their weight, it is more than okay to ask them to leave the panel. Don’t be afraid of drama. THE DAY BEFORE THE CONVENTION
• If you’re like me, you pack like a week in advance and unpack several times to make sure that you didn’t forget anything. Take out that checklist and make sure that everything that you need is packed (or is getting packed as you check it off).
• If you are taking a laptop or tablet, double check the panel forums or application page to make sure that you aren’t going to need any special cables. It is also a good idea to bring along speakers, a charger for your laptop/tablet, and any other cables that you have for your device. • Make sure that all of the items are packed so that you can get to them in a hurry if you need to. (I packed a laptop bag with everything that I needed for a panel once and it was so much easier then when I didn’t.)
• Get with your partners, if in a large group, and practice the major points of your panel. Be sure to ask questions about their parts and try to be that “one guy/gal in the front/back that seems to know it all and likes to correct you” for an annoyance test.
AT THE CONVENTION:
• After you check into the convention and hotel, go ahead and find out where and when your panel is. That way if you are in a hurry, then you know exactly where you are going.
• Take your packed panel stuff and make sure that you have everything before placing it BACK IN THE BAG! I cannot stress enough that you have to place it back into the bag after you make sure that it is all there.
• And most importantly: Have a great time until your panel! Try not to stress too much over it or it’s no longer fun for anyone. After your fun is over for the day, you could always gather everyone for a pre-panel session and go over all the parts again, but it’s always up to you.
DURING YOUR PANEL
• If things start going wrong with the projector, TV, or whatever you are presenting on from your device, then don’t panic! If you need time, go ahead and have a member of your group, if you have one, start the panel with a more in-depth description of what your panel is about.
• If you get nervous in front of crowds, then find a spot on the wall about eye level and track your eyes along it to make it look like you’re looking at the audience. It will help with nervousness and will make the audience feel more engaged. Or just scan the audience for cosplays that you like, it’s a good way to find eye contact and will keep you and the audience in tune.
• If you have notes, don’t read word for word, it’s okay to improvise! Make sure to keep your audience engaged by glancing at them. Just don’t stare them down… That makes everyone uncomfortable.
• And most importantly, HAVE FUN! It’s your panel and your passion, so have fun with it! Have a joke? Tell it! Anime/Game character crush? Laugh about it! (Just DO NOT talk about your “waifu or “husbando”…. This is uncomfortable… and most people don’t want to hear a rant about why they cannot like a certain character. I once talked about my love for Riku and Axel in KH, but it was in a joking manner. They are certainly not my crushes, but I have a healthy respect for them.)
• It’s good to wrap up the panel a bit early so that you can pack up before the next panel starts.
AFTER THE PANEL
• CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve just hosted a panel! If you want to talk to certain people after your panel, make sure to do so after you have cleaned up and moved out of the room. Most conventions have panels back to back and have no time for people just chatting. Besides, that is incredibly rude.
Now, there are all different types of panels, but one that I have found a dislike for are in-character Q&A fan panels. If you are to run one of these types of panels, please make sure to pick people that know the character well and will not go off onto random tangents during the panel. These types of panels can be so fun and informative for new fans if they are done correctly. (This is my opinion, and not everyone feels this way. So no biggie if you disagree with me!)
These are just my tips for hosting a panel. Like I said at the beginning, I am in no way an expert in running panels, but I have attended a fair few and these are things that I have noticed that helped me and my friends as we started to host panels. Panels are all about your passions, so pick something that you love and put yourself out there! I hope to be attending your panels one day!