One of the things I love about genre and writing conventions are the panels. I enjoy them as an audience member, and I love it even more being on the panels.
It’s nice to get up for a panel and see the room filled with two score (or more) people waiting to hear what you have to say. It’s the familiar lecture format. Even if you have a moderator who primarily moderates by asking the panelists questions the audience wants to hear, it still resembles a lecture or a “talk”. The audience recieves wisdom delivered from the Wise Ones on High.
And then there’s the panel where you walk in and have as many people in the audience as you do panelists.
I call these “relaxapanels”. And they can be awesome.
For the audience member(s), it’s great. They have a rare opportunity to talk to the panelists for about an hour without interruption. (This frequently happens with author readings at conventions as well.) Talk about the panel topic, or ask about other things that are going on. Get the behind-the-scenes look.
For panelists, it can be awesome…if you let go of the podium. Let go of the lecture format. Pull chairs into a circle if you can. Have a conversation. See what the audience wants to talk about. Maybe they have information or perspectives you’ve never considered. Maybe they can confirm what you’ve always believed. Maybe they’re just cool to talk to.
The next time you find yourself unexpectedly at a relaxapanel (you can’t plan relaxapanels, they just happen1, don’t worry about how many people are there.
It can be awesome.
1 Okay, planning a panel for early Sunday morning at a convention raises the odds…