Get Involved In Fandom: You Can Sit On Panels Too!

I’m here to let you in on a little secret. For a long time, I sat on the sidelines of fandom. I spent years thinking I wasn’t qualified to contribute in a meaningful way, that my voice didn’t matter and my perspective was unimportant. And guess what? I was totally wrong. Last week I attended ConQuest46 , and participated in panels for the first time ever. It was terrifying, and I spent weeks worrying about whether or not anyone would come, or that I’d say something dumb, or people would look at me and wonder what the heck I was talking about. I was relieved when none of this happened, and thrilled when I realized how much fun it was!

Your point of view, it matters. You are qualified to talk about the things you love, the books you’re reading, the podcasts you’re loving and the movies you can’t wait to see. Your experiences, your opinions, and your side of the debate are all interesting and funny and important and people want to listen. If you’ve been sitting on the sidelines, too scared to put yourself out there or speak up, I get it. But now’s the time to shine.

How To Create The Best Convention Panel Ever

  1. Come up with lots of ideas. Here’s the catch, your idea doesn’t have to be 100% original. How many times has someone talked about DIY costuming, or the Hogwarts sorting hat? You’re not the first, and you won’t be the last. But you should submit your idea anyway. Submit one or five or ten, and see what sticks.
  2. Submit. Keep an eye on your favorite convention, they will usually let you know when it’s time to submit programming ideas. Sometimes it’s months before, sometimes it’s just a few weeks. Most conventions ask you to submit a couple hundred word description of what your panel is (and usually this is used in the programming book). Come up with a clever title that will get people interested.
  3. Prepare. I get nervous. I need notes. Even if you don’t use them, it’s nice to spend some time writing your thoughts down. What do I want to say? How do you want the conversation to flow? Create an outline that you and your fellow panelists can reference before and during your presentation.
  4. Engage your audience. You’re here. You made it. Maybe you feel like you’re drowning. To stay afloat, open up the conversation to the people in the room. Let their questions and comments guide your discussion. Often times they’ll have something even more interesting to add  that you hadn’t even thought of. This takes a lot of pressure off you, and makes everyone else feel valued and included.
  5. Have a good time. Your discussion does not need to be super academic or serious to be smart and thought provoking, (but it can be and it probably will be without you even trying). Going to conventions gives you the space to make hilarious jokes that you can’t get away with in your day to day life. Take advantage. Laugh, relax, and have a good time.

Start small or big, in front of a large audience or a couple close friends. I travelled to a brand new convention to try panels for the first time, figuring if everything turned out terrible I’d never have to see these people again, and it made everything slightly less terrifying. Pull your friends into the room for support, and you’ll rock it. Trust yourself!

Have you ever participated in a fandom convention panel before? What are your tips and tricks for submitting and preparing?

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