Tips for Panelists

WisCon programming items are inclusive. You don’t have to be a published expert to be a great WisCon presenter or panelist. If you are new to panels or need a refresher, this list will help you be a great panelist.

Preparing for the convention

  • Your moderator will contact you before the convention. Respond to your moderator’s email. This is your chance to define the format, structure, and scope of the panel.
  • Re-read the panel description and raise questions about anything that’s not clear.
  • Let the other panelists know what your interpretation of the panel description is. Everyone doesn’t have to agree to the same take on a panel, but it is helpful to let each other know where you’re coming from before hand. If you are going to discuss specific books, mention them in your email to the other panelists. You don’t all need to have read the same books to have an interesting discussion.
  • Formulate the things you’d like to convey during the allotted time Keep this list simple. You may want to keep the sub-topics to no more than three.
  • Different people have different styles and different panels have different structures. Decide beforehand how structured your panel will be and how much time will be devoted to panelist participation and audience participation.
  • Do your homework. Gather the names of the books and authors you want to discuss. People in the audience will ask for specifics. Read, view, listen to relevant materials. Prepare notes and/or spend time thinking about the topic. You may do this on your own and in emails with the other panelists, depending on how the group decides to interact before the convention.

At the Con

  • Meet up in the 2nd floor Green Room 10 minutes before the panel start time. This gives you an opportunity to meet fellow panelists and finalize details.
  • Start on time! If unavoidably late, quietly enter the room, take a place at the table and wait for your mod to fold you into the panel-already-in-progress. Don’t apologize for being late. The audience is paying attention to the ongoing discussion, not to you.
  • Share the time with other panelists and the audience. Respect the other panelists views. If you disagree don’t make it personal.

Be aware that the other panelists may have as much to say as you do. Let the moderator manage the panelists’ time. In an hour-and-fifteen minute panel for five panelists there are roughly 15 minutes apiece not counting audience input. WisCon audiences want to get into the discussion as soon as possible. Prepare to answer lots of audience questions. The moderator will let the audience know how soon they will start taking questions, while setting up the panel. Defer to the moderator as they directs the conversation.

Bring a notepad. Discussion moves very quickly and it can help to take notes of what you want to cover when the moderator gets back to you.

Look at the audience. Resist the temptation to address your comments solely to a fellow panelist, even when responding to a specific point.

Speak one at a time. Refrain from whispering with other panelists.

Use the microphone, when available. Make sure it is turned on. If using a microphone is new to you ask the moderator for instructions.