Wednesday, May 10, 2017

How to Be a Fabulous Panelist

As I move deeper into my writing life, I'm getting invitations to do a variety of things. It's proving to be almost as much fun as writing itself is! 

My favorite is probably participating in discussion panels. I get to indulge my vanity by acting as an expert on a topic, as well as the more altruistic side of me that wants to help others move towards their dreams AND I get to connect with other people with similar interests. 

Since I started doing this (at conventions, libraries, and literary events), I've participated in discussions about writing craft (dialogue, action, characterization, etc.), writing tools (software, storyboarding, editing programs), marketing (social media, blogging, sales), paths to publishing, time management, superheroes, concepts like honor, the importance of diversity, and so much more. 

So, if life hands you the opportunity to be on a panel, here are a few pieces of advice about how to make the most of it: 

1. A little research helps. If you know ahead of time who you are sharing panel conversation with and what the topic is, spend a little time looking into who the other people are and considering questions and topics you might raise if the conversation needs a nudge. This can also really assist you if you're introverted or don't consider yourself as good as thinking on your feet as others. You don't want to go too far and write a speech, but a few notes can be a nice support and keep long lulls from happening. 

2. Be generous. Talk kindly of anyone you mention (if you can't talk kindly about something/someone . . .maybe don't mention it at all). Give the other panelists an "in" to the conversation by throwing them a bone from time to time. If you notice someone is quiet, try to bring them in (even if you're not the moderator) by riffing off of something they said or using what you learned about them in your research. We all benefit if the conversation flows well and stays interesting for the audience. 

3. Be aware. Pay attention to the social cues your audience and fellow panelists are giving you. Are you talking too much? Interrupting or over-talking? Stay focused and "in the moment" giving your companions the courtesy of your full attention. Listen to the other panelists rather than just waiting for your turn to talk. 

4. Take care of you. Self care is especially important when you're going to be in
the public eye. I learned the hard way about accepting too many panels at a convention, then having to struggle to keep myself wakeful and positive by the last one of the day. Plan ahead by bringing layers you can add or remove for temperature comfort. Lip balm, water, and portable snacks like protein bars can be a lifesaver. Allow yourself enough time between events to rest your voice and your mind (especially important if you're more introverted). 

5. Show gratitude. Thank your panelists, audience, and organizers both on the spot and afterwards. Give some social media love by sharing pictures and tagging the other participants. Even if there are only a few audience members, you never know what ripples you've created that will feed your career and networks. Be gracious, and present yourself well even if you feel disappointed. 

1 comment:

  1. I've never done a true panel like the ones you've described here. All of my events asked each author to speak on the topic of their choosing for 10-15 minutes, and then take questions at the end. But your advice would absolutely apply to that, too.