Warning: Hacks for Hacks tips may have harmful side effects on your writing career, and should not be used by minors, adults, writers, poets, scribes, scriveners, journalists, or anybody.
Being on a panel at a conference or convention is the most exhilarating experience a writer can have. Simply nothing beats the feeling of having people treat you like an interesting, attractive, knowledgeable expert. Well, except money and fame, but don’t hold your breath for those, pal. I mean, come on!
If it’s your first time on a panel, it’s your job to make sure the audience isn’t bored. You can learn how to give good panel by following my easy advice.
What to Bring
- Your books. You want to show the audience the awesome works you’ve written so they can buy them. You should also bring a couple to put on your chair to make yourself taller than everyone else.
- Your own microphone. Pro wrestlers do this all the time. That way, the moderator can’t cut you off. Maybe consider some entrance music, too. Hell, just bring your own public address system, it’ll make things easier.
- A list of talking points you want to cover during the panel. Ideally, these will relate directly to the panel topic. Then again, ideally, communism is a viable economic system, so don’t be surprised if you have to force your diatribe about My Little Pony into the conversation.
- Snacks. Nobody has ever regretted bringing snacks to an event. If you’re feeling generous, give some to the other panelists. You can also bring some to toss to the audience during the boring parts–by which I mean, the parts when you’re not speaking.
What to Wear
- The branded logo T-shirt of a local business you somehow convinced to sponsor you. “Sci-fi Unicorn Detective and Murphy’s Discount Flooring—it’s a match made in Heaven, baby!”
- Sunglasses. Dramatically take them off several times during the panel when someone makes a particularly salient point.
- Elbow patches. Preferably on a sport coat, but it’s not like it’s a law or anything.
- Makeup. You’re basically on stage, so pretend you’re getting ready for your school play. Ladies, do whatever your normal routine is, just more of it to add some drama to your features. Gentlemen, use some foundation to even out your skin tone, and consider adding some gray to your hair to make you look more distinguished.
- Comfortable shoes. You’ll be behind a skirted table, so nobody’s going to see your feet anyway.
- Cutoff jean-shorts. Same reason.
- One accessory with a compelling backstory. Perhaps it’s a bracelet you inherited from your grandma. A ring that you acquired in a high-stakes game of baccarat. A necklace made of the finger bones of the person you won the ring from. It can be anything, really, so long as it makes a good story you can shoehorn into the discussion somehow. Find an item that’s cursed, if possible.
What to Say
- The name of the city you’re in. This is a great way to get an easy pop from the crowd. “I think, a hundred years from now, Stephen King will be more well-known for his short stories than his novels. Isn’t that right…Raleigh, North Carolina?!” [pause forty-five seconds to let raucous applause die down]
- Trash talk. Remember, you’re the star of the show. That means you may have to take one of your fellow panelists down a peg or two. Choose one to be your punching bag and go after them. This is a great way to start a literary feud. If you’re the least-famous panelist, attack the number-two person; the top dog will appreciate you getting that puppy to stop nipping at their heels. In the middle? Take out the authors immediately more and less famous than yourself, in that order. If you’re the most famous panelist, I’d be very surprised.
- “Let’s do the wave!” Then start the wave.
- Updog. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: If you can updog one of the panelists, you are declared the winner.
- That you’ll be back next year. Won’t they be excited to know a fascinating panelist like yourself will be participating again? The expression on their faces might look like fear at first glance, but remember that fear is just an extreme form of excitement.
Have some tips on how to be a great panelist at a con? Share them in the comments!
Now, thanks to tinyCoffee and PayPal, you can!