Tuesday, June 10, 2014
5 Tips To Get The Most From An Author Panel
Tip 1: Queue early. Do your damnedest to be at the conference room five minutes early (more if celebrities are on the panel, because you won't be the only one there and those lines often form an hour in advance). The people who show up right at noon for the 1200hrs panel are actually late. Noon is when the discussion begins not when you find your seat. Put your butt in the chair early. And don't be the guy who leaves a seat vacant in the middle of the row. You're not being polite to the people next to you; you're being an ass to the people looking for a seat.
Tip 2: Hesh. Mouths and phones. Unless you're at the mic voicing your question, no one wants to hear you or your assorted technologies. Whispers aren't quiet neither are the tap-a-tap-taps of you texting. Gods help you if your phone rings. If you're dumb enough to compound your offense by answering it in room, be prepared to be garroted (you never know who's sitting behind you).
Tip 3: Have Questions: Please, please be ready with a question. Better still, be prepared with two questions even if you only get to ask one. (Chances are someone else will ask one of your questions or the panelists will answer it during the course of discussion.) At some panels there is a creepy silence when the opportunity for questions arise. That's awkward for everyone. Other panels run out of time before the questions can be asked or there are just too many waiting to be asked. If you don't get a chance to ask your question during the panel, accept it gracefully. Perhaps you'll have a chance to chat with a panelist after the session or during the course of the Con. (Please, don't stalk the panelists, that's just ...wrong.)
Tip 4: Ask Smart Questions: Ask open-ended questions, questions that require more than a yes or no. Ask questions that are pertinent to the panel topic yet solicit unexpected answers. (Example: Don't ask Stephen King the inspiration for MISERY; instead ask why he chose to frame the overt conflicts as physical dominance versus sexual.) Get to the point of your question quickly. Much like a novel, no one wants to hear your backstory and you're not going to get a book deal/co-writing offer/date just by asking a question. No proselytizing either. Q&A is not 15 minutes of Fame. Queue up, speak loudly and clearly into the mic, then let the panelists answer.
Tip 5: Props to the Panel: Once the panel is over -- if you enjoyed it, if you found the panelists engaging or interesting, if you'd like to attend a panel by one, some, or all of the participants again -- give them a shout-out on social media. Compliments go a long way. You might, might even open the door for dialogue, say, to ask that one question you didn't get a chance to voice during the panel.
So, dear readers, what are your audience tips for attending a panel?