Panels are one of the greatest things a convention or conference can utilize. They allow a lot of different people to talk about similar topics while simultaneously answering audience-provided questions, getting everyone involved. But the hardest thing about a panel is making one that people want to go to. Take a look at
the official Comic-Con, the world’s largest comic-book, sci-fi and entertainment convention in the world. Panels are a staple at the original Comic-Con and with literally hundreds to choose from you have to make yours stand out. The same goes for any convention or conference. You need a strategy, a plan to get people to not only come to your panel, but also to engage with it as well. Here are 3 helpful ways that you can keep your audience’s attention during your panel and keep the entire thing engaging and interesting.
Don’t put your audience to sleep with long-winded openers
Listen, we’re living in 2015. People are used to being connected to information 24/7 and are extremely keen on getting information into their brains as fast as possible. The attention span of people these days is a short one and nothing can turn people off or away from your panel quicker than the moderator droning on and on about the credentials and the achievements of the panelist. Most of the time, all that information is in the conference program anyways so don’t waste your time repeating it. Nobody wants to listen to the same information they just read spoken to them, they want new and interesting information so give it to them!
Pick the right moderator
Speaking of long-winded openings, another thing that can quickly turn off a crowd is the wrong moderator. Sure you want people on your panel that are interesting and capable of forming cohesive and complete thoughts but the moderator is the screw that holds the whole panel together. The job of the moderator is to facilitate questions that are both interesting and investigative, ones that will cause the panelists to openly discuss what they are asked intricately and thoughtfully. The moderator needs to focus the panel toward something instead of leaving it dead in the water. A lot of conferences and conventions hire television personalities to be panel moderators. These people are great at keeping the discussion going and avoiding those dreaded awkward silences.
Force your panelists to prepare what they are going to talk about
The absolute worst thing a panelist can do is simply show up and not prepare anything at all. This isn’t a chitchat amongst friends, this is an informative, professional panel designed to create discussion and provide valuable information. Panelists who don’t prepare anything are only wasting their time and the time of the people in attendance. If you’re organizing a panel then force your panelists to prepare something. Tell them that the moderator needs more information, ask them what kinds of questions they think they should be asked and ask them for short responses to those questions, allowing the panelist to create follow-up questions. There’s nothing worse than having a bunch of panelists with nothing to say.
Panels can be one of the greatest attributes of a convention or conference, but they’re no walk in the park. You have to work to make them productive, informative and engaging. Follow these tips and you will be well on your way to making a solid panel.
Alright, now that we’ve talked business, let’s have some fun! Check out these photos of Vegas Nightlife like you’ve never seen it before: