Sunday, May 02, 2010

Panels of Plenty



At different conventions I've been to over the last few years, I've developed some ideas regarding what presenters should and shouldn't do. I speak from my perspective as a teacher and as a former outreach person who would often do speaking engagements before large and diverse groups of people.

First, I think presenters should remember that attendees have smacked down some cash  to be entertained and informed, and to become part of a convention culture.Therefore, I think anyone on a panel who comes unprepared is doing a disservice to those present. I think there is a danger of an author being put on a panel where he or she is ill prepared. The result? The panelist bluffs through content, tugging focus away from what was originally supposed to be discussed, and instead turning what could have been an intriguing fanfest into some sort of irrelevant ego stroke.

Second, I believe authors can be too self-serving. I understand we are there to promote our work, but sometimes displaying too much ego is a turnoff for fans. The best presenters seem to be the ones who engage the audience, asking questions of them, soliciting dialogue, developing a sense of immediacy and intimacy. In this situations, self-promotion is often made more palatable with a dose of self-deprecation.

Third, and this is painful, there are some who shouldn't do panels. Being a writer doesn't mean you have a natural ability to put yourself over. Public speaking may come naturally to a few, but good public speakers become so through experience and an understanding of the dynamic that is the speaker/audience relationship. When I go to a convention, I try and bring to a panel the committment that when a person leaves a panel discussion that they have a sense that they've been part of an unique experience. I also try and use techniques I've developed as teacher to keep people interested and to keep them surprised and guessing what might be coming next. It's more difficult to do this when you are one on a panel of four or five and different personalities are tugging at one another for the spotlight, rather than working together.

7 comments:

Jemi Fraser said...

Good points. Not being prepared is inexcusable. As you say, people pay good money for the session & they should be respected. Lack of preparation = lack of respect.

Christine Purcell said...

I think you've hit on some key issues. One of my biggest peeves is when a speaker goes off on a tangent, which is probably due to the speaker's lack of preparation.

Jon said...

I wish I could have been there. I'd planned on it, but things happened. Next year.

Stewart Sternberg said...

Jemi, I like the idea about respect. I think some people are hungry for promotion and have difficulty knowing how to go about it.

Christine, speakers going off tangent, or I should say, ignoring the topic at hand, are sometimes frustrating.

Jon, maybe some time in the future. You would have enjoyed it, if only for the people watching opportunities.

stu said...

Was the last panel thing a bad one, then?

Stewart Sternberg said...

No, I think the last panel went off topic, but they were responding to audience interest. Perhaps that suggests that the topic was something that wasn't strong enough to carry the audience forward

Charles Gramlich said...

Good advice. I do try to keep these things in mind whenever I do panels.