On Moderating a Panel

anime yelling
Noted, I will only yell at you if your question is not in the form of a question, or lasts longer than two minutes.

Being on a panel at a convention can be a lot of fun, especially when it’s about a subject in which you hold a ridiculous amount of knowledge and fannishness.  [Not to mention that it’s a perfect time for a bit of shameless self-promotion!]  It’s also a great way to meet other people from all levels of the writing world.

But what about moderating?

This past weekend was definitely a learning experience for me, as I had to moderate not one but two panels that I’d created for BayCon.  The first one (recent music inspired by SF/F) ended up being more of a group conversation, as there was a total of six of us in the room.  When it’s that small, it’s usually better to be a little informal, and have a bit of fun with it.  The audience will enjoy being a part of the conversation as well.

The second one — regarding mentors in the Star Wars universe — needed to be a bit more strict in format.  We had about a dozen people in the audience, there were were four on the panel, and of course there would be A Lot of Opinions being shared.

One thing A and I did for this second one was to prepare ahead of time — she created a spreadsheet of possible character relationships to talk about.  The panelists were excited by this and used it as a quick reference guide on what they wanted to talk about.  Another thing was that I emailed all the panelists ahead of time — especially as a moderator — to ask if there were any issues or points they wanted to make, or if they had any personal requests.  [One of the guys wanted to bring in some of his collection of lightsabers, which he very creatively tied in with the theme of the panel.]

Another thing I kept in mind is that I had to, well… Be the Adult In the Room, for lack of a better term.  Not that everyone acted like petulant kids, mind you… this was about being the one to keep everything reined in.  The moderator has to lay down the rules, make sure that the panel doesn’t drift off topic, and also has to be the official timekeeper.   I was willing to let the audience comment now and again — especially since it was relatively small — but I also had to jump in and be the one to say “okay, moving on…”

[I should also mention here that, this is precisely where the moderator should also pay attention to who’s talking and who’s merely interrupting.  There were one or two moments where I noticed someone was about to talk over someone who was making a point, so I had to make sure that didn’t happen.  And yes, this does in fact include Those Guys who will interrupt women who are speaking.]

That doesn’t mean you have to be the teacher watching the kids at recess.  Have fun and be a part of the chatter!  But you definitely need to remember that you’re also the one in charge — you own this group and this subject for an hour and a half, so you most definitely have the right to steer the conversation where it needs to go.

Note: ALWAYS start the wrap-up about fifteen minutes before the ending. This is for last minute questioning, not to mention gathering your things for a smooth exit to your next scheduled event.  Many find that the clock feature on their cell phones is a perfect time keeper.

And in the end, if the audience enjoyed it, they will may want to come up and have a question or a comment they’d like to share.  If you’re not in a mad hurry to get to your next panel, by all means, chat away!  [And if you can, leave your books and freebies out on the table in front of you for a few moments longer, because they might want to take a peek!]  Just remember to leave enough time so your panelists and audience can leave, and the next panelists and their audience can come in.

I still have to get used to moderating, and I’m sure I made a few mistakes, but all in all, I definitely had fun with it, and would totally do it again.

Upcoming Appearance — BayCon 2018!

Baycon 2018

Hey gang!  I’ll be at BayCon this weekend in (hopefully) sunny San Mateo, just down the peninsula from me!  If you happen to be there, come by and say hi!  No readings this time out, but this time I’m trying something new — Moderating!  [This will either be a fantastic experience or it will end in tears, depending on how out of control they get, heh.]

Here’s my panel schedule:

Friday (5/25) at 1:30pm, Room Connect 3:  The Next Generations of Science Fiction and Fantasy in Music.  Description: What music have we heard in the recent past — from the 90s to today — that infuses the ideas of science fiction and fantasy?  I’ll be moderating this one, of course!  This was inspired by a panel I’d gone to at Readercon some years ago that did the same thing, though it focused mostly on the 60s-70s prog, psych and folk rock scenes.  If I can pull it off, we may actually play some tunes!

Saturday (5/26) at 1:00pm, Room Synergy 4:  The Elder As Mentor in the Star Wars Universe.  Description: While the Star Wars universe often has the young maverick saving the day, it’s often thanks to their elders who helped pave the way and made them who they are.  I’m moderating this one as well!  This was actually A’s idea but neither of us could resist it.  This one should be a lot of fun.

Sunday (5/27) at 11:30am, Room Synergy 5: Can You Go Home Again?  Description: A good many authors these days are returning to the worlds of their successes in years past. Some critics and readers sneer.  But why shouldn’t writers expand a beloved concept, if they have something new to say about it?  I won’t be moderating, and I believe I’m the youngest/newest writer on the panel, but I’ll of course comment on how much I loved working on the trilogy and how I’m itching to return to it.

Here’s the con’s link right here if you’re curious and want more info.

Hope to see you there!

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NOTE:  As I’ll be at the Con on Friday, there may or may not be a blog entry then.  Perhaps a fly-by if I have the time!

Convention Time Coming in 2018!

anime crowd

HEY KIDS!  I’ll be hitting the science fiction convention circuit with a force next year, as we’ve just bought our registrations for three of them that will be our neck of the woods!  And yes, I’m planning on getting myself on some panels and maybe even doing a reading of something from the New Project (aka the Apartment Complex story)!

If you’re in the SF Bay area, and are at one of these, come and say hi! 🙂

March 9 – 11: FOGcon, Walnut Creek, CA

May 25 – 28: BayCon, San Mateo, CA

August 16 – 20: WorldCon 76, San Jose, CA

[I will of course be posting this elsewhere on the blog later on under an ‘Appearances’ tab and again when it gets closer to the dates…just thought I’d share the excitement now!]

two novels, finish my blueprints, begin my beguine

nowhere man typing

I’m writing this on Wednesday evening, but by the time you read this on Friday, I’ll be awake and preparing for BayCon down the road in San Mateo.  Come by and say hi if you’ll be there!

Speaking of preparation…this is officially the second convention I’ll be going to where I’m actually taking part in panels to some degree.  Which means that even though I’ll be going there mostly to have fun and meet other writers, in a way I’m also there on business.  As much as I feel more at home riffing in conversations, playing off what other people are talking about, I should also ensure that I stay on subject.  And more importantly, I should be prepared to bring up certain points that I’d like to share with the audience.

For two of the panels, the moderators reached out to the rest of us panelists for some preplanning and idea sharing, which I thought was a brilliant idea.  [The moderator for one of the panels I was on at FogCon did the same, which helped a lot then as well.]  It gives us a chance to come up with a barebones list of points to make and where we’d like the conversation to head.  It also breaks the ice a bit!  If you’re ever moderating a panel at a convention, I highly suggest doing this.

There’s also my half-page flyers to prep.  By this, it’s just a simple address label stuck in the lower corner where I’ve written something along the lines of “I’ll be at these panels.  Come and say hi!”.   If someone sees these on the freebie table, then they can follow up if they so choose.

And as always, I’ll have needed to take some allergy meds and stashed a few bottles of water with me.  Yapping on a panel for an hour or so does dry you out!

And lastly, A. and I are familiar with the area, as it’s just down the road from SF Airport.  I’m sure the hotel will have a restaurant and probably a snack shop, but it’s good to know places nearby where we can stop for take-out on the way home!

I don’t need to prepare for every detail, of course.  But doing at least the bare minimum so I’m prepared is good enough.

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Note: Monday’s blog post will either be up late or will be up on Tuesday, due to the fact that it will be the last day of the con and I have two of the panels that day. 🙂

HARK! I will be at FogCon 7!

YAY!  I will be at FOGcon 7 this year!

I know it’s super last minute announcement, but I’d been hedging about whether or not I’d be able to go, for various reasons.  However, thanks to personal plans (and Major Editing Projects) coming together with perfect timing, I’ll be able to make an appearance.  I may have even signed up to be on a few panels and may even do a reading…!

Which means I have one month to do some serious homework and preparation for this, my first official con as a participating author instead of just an attendee fan.

This should be quite interesting.

FOGcon 7 will be in Walnut Creek, CA, on March 10 – 12, at the Walnut Creek Marriott.

 

Hope to see you there! 🙂