Doing a Panel: The Basics, Pt. 1

Twitterlesung // basics festival 2012 "au...

Twitterlesung // basics festival 2012 “autopilot:intuition” // ARGEkultur Salzburg // 10.03.2012 (Photo credit: ARGEkultur)

Okay, so for the first article of this series, I’m just going to go over some basic advice for the entire panel process: conception of ides, submitting, waiting, acceptance/rejection, actually presenting, & post-con wrap-ups.  Each of these topics alone are going to eventually be their own article, but for right now I’m just going to quickly go over them:

  • Coming up with ideas-Generally, regardless of how many or how little ideas you have, you should always have a document (Microsoft Word, etc.) that lists out all your ideas that you can always refer back to.  This way, you can keep track of everything & keep from basically re-inventing the wheel when coming up with panel ideas as well as have a general document to keep track of notes for any idea.  Also, typically you want to do panel on things that you know a lot about outside the “true fan” territory (i.e., info. on things behind the scenes, what went into the development process, etc.) & are essentially at “expert level” when it comes to knowledge on the topic which, of course, is completely determined by whatever your topic may be.  However, ultimately, as long as you’re are at “expert level” by the time of presentation (i.e., you’ve done copious amounts of research throughout the panel preparation/creation process), then you can essentially do a topic on a near infinite amount of things, you just need to be prepared to do the necessary research for any topic you want to present a panel on.


  • Submitting-Of course, you can come up with all the ideas you want, but if you don’t submit anything then it doesn’t matter.  Every con has it’s own panel submission rules, regulations, & processes, so the best way to find this information is to check the individual con’s panel submission policies & e-mail the panel department if you have any questions.  Since every con has its own way of doing things that they usually update from year to year, it’s a good practice to read through a con’s panel submission guidelines for every year you submit to a con for every con; no 2 cons submission guidelines are identical, so you’re going to need to read it every time you submit anywhere, period.  Also, it helps to keep a document (can be the same as the one used for listing your ideas) of all the descriptions, etc. you enter for a submission form.  This way, you can copy & paste descriptions, panel experience, etc. from con to con vs. having to rewrite a proposal from scratch every time.  Some cons will e-mail you a copy of your submission form, some won’t, either way it’s just easier if you have a document with all this information in it vs. having to dig through e-mails trying to find a copy of your submission form to copy anyway.  Lastly, you can submit as much as you want, so if you have 1 or 100 ideas, there is no limit to how many panel submission forms you can submit, so don’t fret, it’s just a matter of how many you’re willing to do.


  • Waiting-Hope you’re the patient type because after you submit that’s all you’ll be doing ~.~  Waiting after you submit, waiting for when you can submit, waiting to hear what’s been accepted/rejected, waiting for the next con, waiting waiting waiting.  To me the panel process is %50 preparation/creation & %50 waiting, since an unfounded amount of time spent during the process is waiting for something, so be prepared to do so.


  • Acceptance/Rejection-Like waiting, I hope you can take rejection because it’s almost an inherent part of the process.  Sometimes you won’t get a panel idea accepted, sometimes you will.  Certain cons are really hard to get things accepted to in general (Otakon, ~%75 rejection rate), while other cons -typically smaller cons- are a little bit easier to get things accepted to, it’s just a fact of con life.  Cons judge the viability of an idea by the submission form, (sometimes) previous panel experience, if it fits with the theme of the con, etc., there are a lot of things cons use to decide whether a panel is in or out, some of which can be ascertained simply by looking over the areas of the panel submission form.  Save biographical info (name, address, age, etc.), they don’t just put those things on the form for s**ts & giggles, they are using those fields to help them decide one way or the other with your panel.  Honestly, sometimes your idea just missed being accepted and may wind up on the wait list.  When this happens,  it is very well possible that, despite originally receiving a rejection, you may still get that idea pulled in for the venue (like my Yaoi Tropes & Trends panel for AUSA 2012).  The point of the matter is to not get too hyped when submitting to any con because that just makes (possible) rejection more difficult to deal with & that you should be prepared for rejection.  Doesn’t mean you won’t get anything accepted at a con, just means you need to keep things in perspective; you are not the only one submitting panels, so there is somewhat of a competition between the viability of all these ideas & being at the mercy of the con staff.


  • Actually Presenting-You need to be super familiar with your panel topic & comfortable talking about it by the time of the presentation.  This is the best way to deal with any potential anxiety or nervousness you may have when presenting  which is almost guaranteed if it’s your first panel ever. Knowing your topic through & through + being comfortable with your topic go hand-in-hand as well as is the first line of defense when dealing with “anime experts” at your panel.  When you know your material, it’s easy to deal with people asking questions or challenging you on anything mentioned, so it’s a must for when actually presenting.  Also, make sure to have something to drink, like water or tea, to keep your mouth moist & to stay hydrated.  When you’re talking for any length of time, your mouth will begin to dry out which will make it harder to talk & will cause you to start coughing, so have this!  Sometimes cons will provide water coolers in the room for the panelists, but there’s no guarantee there will be any left by the time you present.  Typically, con goers will take the coolers as being there for anyone to take advantage of, when it’s really meant for panelists, so it’s better just to BYOW vs. (essentially) relying on ppl. not to be selfish >.>  Additionally, there’s no guarantee any will be left simply from other panelists using it & the con staff not refilling it in time for your panel.  Always have either a Q & A built into the panel or take questions/comments throughout the panel.  You’re bound to have at least one during the course of the panel, especially with info. heavy panels, & you should always leave time for this.  There’s a lot more I can say about this, but like all the other points, I will write an article focusing on this solely, because there’s just too much to say about this.


  • Post Con Wrap-Ups-Whether presenting in a group or going solo, take note of things mentioned during your panel by the audience.  These things can be invaluable when going over your panel to make changes/tweaking it & can help you improve it for the better.  Due to the fact that ‘no one can know everything’ you should always be open & ready to receive comments & such during the panel because you can get some really awesome suggestions.  Also, you should be taking note of things (whether literally or mentally) happening in general during your panel so you can better prepare yourself for the next time you present it.  If you notice you have a lot of ppl. leaving during the course of your panel, that could be a sign that you need to workshop that idea more; had a lot of questions about one particular thing, then you probably need to focus on that more in the next iteration of that panel; the list goes on.  I basically call this “live feedback” where you judge what’s presently happening at your panel to improve it later on, but post con is the time where you implement things learned from your observations to improve your panel for the better.

Again, I’ll write articles focusing on each bullet point later on, but these are some basics for right now.  I’ll have another basics article later on that goes over the finer points, but this is a more detailed focus on the actual process.


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