This was brought to my attention earlier today thanks to the Facebook status efforts of the lovely Elizabeth Donald: Over on his own blog, author Jim Hines has offered up some thoughts about discussion panels at conventions. As any good fan (of anything that manages to generate a convention) knows, panels play an important part in any well-run con. They add to the feeling that paying customers are included in the weekend’s activities, rather than being viewed as a source of revenue for the con promoter.
For all of that, they’re also a colossal logistical hurdle for most con committees. Coordinating the schedules, request, demands, and egos of the various panelists is but one part of piecing together a panel schedule that stands a decent chance of avoiding bloodshed. My hat’s off to those valiant con committee volunteers who take on such Herculean tasks.
However, Jim’s comments and observations aren’t aimed at those heroic ladies and gents. Nope, instead, he turns his thoughts on the people who usually end up at that table at the front of the room: the panelists. It’s a good list for pretty much any convention guest who finds him or herself chairing or participating on a con panel. Check it, yo:
I really can’t take issue with anything on the list. If all of us con-guest types heeded these rather straightforward guidelines, a lot of panels would run one hell of a lot smoother. The only possible change I might suggest making is to the second item: for me, four people on a panel is about as high as I like to go. Anything more, and you spend half the time introducing yourselves to the audience.
As for any additions to the list? I have to say, when I sit on panels, I prefer audience participation. I really, really hate panels where one or more of the panelists spend fifty minutes yammering, then take questions for five or so minutes at the end of the hour. If I want to talk incessantly with my friends and colleagues, that’s what the hotel bar’s for. Otherwise, I’d rather include more of the folks who are paying to be at the con and who are taking time out of their schedule to come and visit me in a panel room.
But, as Dennis Miller used to say…”Of course, that’s just my opinion. I could be wrong.”