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SMOF News, volume 1, issue 23
Advanced program participation.
How to Convention: Program Participation (Part 4)
Previously this space has talked about getting on program items at sf-style conventions and media-style conventions, and what to do once you’re at the con as a program participant. Once you’ve survived that experience a couple times, it’s time to start thinking about advancing to the next level: being a panel moderator.
Typical duties of the moderator include:
Making sure the panel starts and ends on time
Providing prompts to get the other panelists talking
Making sure every panelist gets a chance to contribute
Controlling the flow of questions from the audience
Keeping things on topic
This may sound daunting, but haven’t you been to program items where it seemed like the discussion drifted away from what the description promised? Where you wished someone would tell the audience to stop shouting out comments and let the panel talk? Where someone rambled on and on and needed to be encouraged to get to the point? Where something outrageous was said and gotten away with?
Have you fantasized about what you would have done? Then congratulations, you already have the moderator’s most important skill: anticipating how things can go wrong and planning what to do about them. Many infamous panel incidents have happened because the moderator was not prepared to tell someone that that comment was out of line, or that they needed to let someone else talk now, or that no, they could not introduce the panel by reading their multi-page manifesto.
Before the Con
Whether you’re going to be working with people you already know and recruited to the panel, or have been thrown together with a group of strangers by the con programming department, you should be able to reach out to your fellow panelists ahead of time. Give them an idea of how you’re planning to structure the panel. Include at least a couple questions or topics you want to cover. Ask if there’s anything specific they want to have a chance to say.
If your fellow panelists aren’t people you know, and they have a public online presence, read up on them so you aren’t surprised by anything you should have known, like say their credentials in the field being discussed.
Recheck when panels are expected to end. If scheduled back-to-back, the usual expectation is that panels end 10-15 minutes before the end of each time slot to allow everyone to get to the next thing they’re doing or watching. This should be explicitly stated in the information sent to all program participants.
Before the Panel
Arrive early if at all possible. (This is not always possible, if you’re on two consecutive panels at opposite ends of the facility. Good programming departments will try to avoid doing that to you.)
Grab a glass of water, if available, and pick your seat. It’s usually helpful to sit at one end of the table so you can see all your fellow panelists at once.
Bring something you can consult quickly to see what time it is. Program rooms very rarely have visible clocks.
At the Panel
Start on time, even if not all the panelists have shown up. Welcome the audience, saying the name of the program item, just in case someone has come to the wrong room.
Start by setting expectations. If questions need to be held for later, say so. If the discussion is going to have an unusual structure, explain it. Then invite the panel to introduce themselves.
Keep an eye on the time, and start wrapping things up around 5 minutes before the panel should end, to allow everyone one final thought if they have one.
Thank the audience and your fellow panelists, and you’re done! That doesn’t sound so hard, does it?
Many cons will give you the option of indicating panel by panel which ones you’d be willing to moderate. You can start by picking just one. If the participant survey only has one general question about moderating, add in comments that you’d like to not moderate more than one panel to start with.
If the con then assigns you to moderate more than you’re comfortable with, you have the right to push back and say you don’t want to take that on. Just as with times and topics, letting the con know there’s something you can’t or don’t want to tackle will result in a better experience for everyone— the audience, the program department, your fellow panelists, and you.
Weekend of February 4-6
Capricon 42, Wheeling, Illinois, USA
Sci-Fi Fantasy LA (sf and science), Pasadena, California, USA
Running GAGG 25 (gaming), Geneseo, New York, USA
TableTopCon (gaming), Southport, Australia
CaptainCon 2022 (gaming), Warwick, Rhode Island, USA
Adventure Con 2022 (RPGs), Hamburg, Germany
Chattanooga Railgaming Challenge, Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA
SSA+S Toracon (anime), Sarasota, Florida, USA
WeebCon (anime), Allen, Texas, USA
East Bay Comic Con, Concord, California, USA
Weekend of February 11-13
Boskone 59, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Atlanta Steampunk Expo, Atlanta, Georgia, USA
ScotiaCon (anthropomorphic), Glasgow, UK
FurcoNZ 2022 (anthropomorphic), Ōtaki, New Zealand
ATG Expo (gaming), Waco, Texas, USA
Game On!, Bellevue, Washington, USA
Geekway Mini (gaming), St. Louis, Missouri, USA
Ohayocon 22 (anime), Columbus, Ohio, USA
Kami-Con Season Thirteen (anime), Birmingham, Alabama, USA
Anime Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA
Animangapop (anime), Plymouth, UK
Savannah Animazing Con (anime), Savannah, Georgia, USA
Brick City Anime Festival, Ocala, Florida, USA
Animefest 2022, La Jolla, California, USA
MissouriCon (media), St. Louis, Missouri, USA
Weekend of February 18-20
Radcon 8B, Pasco, Washington, USA
Life, the Universe, and Everything (symposium), Provo, Utah, USA
Anthro New England 2022: Back to the '90s, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
DunDraCon 45 (gaming), Santa Clara, California, USA
Con of the North (gaming), Bloomington, Minnesota, USA
Orccon 2022 (gaming), Los Angeles, California, USA
Williamsburg Muster (wargaming), Williamsburg, Virginia, USA
Decepta Con (social deception gaming), Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Japan Expo Sud (anime), Marseille, France
ExpOtaku Logroño (anime), San Millán, Spain
Katsucon 2022 (anime), National Harbor, Maryland, USA
Zipcon 2022 (anime), Akron, Ohio, USA
47th Annual Boston Sci Fi Film Festival, Somerville, Massachusetts, USA
Con Nooga (media), Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA
Alaska ComiCon, Fairbanks, Alaska, USA
Fan Expo Vancouver (media), Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Shawicon (media), Shawinigan, Québec, Canada
Gallifrey One: Thirty-Second to Midnight (Doctor Who), Los Angeles, California, USA
Weekend of February 25-27
MystiCon, Roanoke, Virginia, USA
Gamicon Gallium (gaming), Cedar Rapids, Iowa, USA
Total Confusion 36 (gaming), Marlborough, Massachusetts, USA
CalCon 28 (gaming), Kalmar, Sweden
Festival International des Jeux (gaming), Cannes, France
Revelation (gaming), Sheffield, UK
K2 Convention (gaming), Dungarvan, Ireland
GenghisCon (gaming), Aurora, Colorado, USA
Fire and Ice Convention (gaming), Manitowoc, Wisconsin, USA
TantrumCon (boardgames), Charlotte, North Carolina, USA
PrezCon 2022/RevCon (boardgames), Charlottesville, Virginia, USA
Intercon U: Ultraviolet (LARPs), Warwick, Rhode Island, USA
LVL UP EXPO (video games), Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
SoCal Gaming Expo (video games), Ontario, California, USA
Kawacon (anime), San Antonio, Texas, USA
ZipCon 2022 (anime), Akron, Ohio, USA
Anime Crossroads 2022, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
Farpoint 29 (media), Hunt Valley, Maryland, USA
Cult Classic Convention (media), Bastrop, Texas, USA
Nerd Fest (media), Swedesboro, New Jersey, USA
Armageddon Expo Tauranga (media), Tauranga, New Zealand
Weekend of March 4-6
CoastCon 44, Biloxi, Mississippi, USA
Cleveland ConCoction 8, Aurora, Ohio, USA
Wild Wild West Steampunk Convention 10: Over the Rainbow, Tucson, Arizona, USA
Llamedos Holiday Camp 2022 – Dragon Trials (Discworld), Llanelli, UK
VancouFur 2022: EvfurQuest (anthropomorphic), Surrey, British Columbia, Canada
Fur the ‘More 2022 (anthropomorphic), Arlington, Virginia, USA
Cardboard*Con (cardboard sf costuming), Atlanta, Georgia, USA
BashCon 36 (gaming), Toledo, Ohio, USA
Tennessee Game Days XV, Franklin, Tennessee, USA
Gary Con XIV (gaming), Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, USA
Dice Tower West (gaming), Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
SaltCON Spring (gaming), Layton, Utah, USA
1d4Con 2022 (gaming), online (usually Shepherdstown, West Virginia, USA)
Evercon 2022 (gaming), Rothschild, Wisconsin, USA
Prolog (LARPs), online (usually Västerås, Sweden)
Animeverse Fest (anime), Pasadena, California, USA
PeoriaCon (media), Peoria, Illinois, USA
Hill Country Comicon, New Braunfels, Texas, USA
Middle East Film & Comic Con, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Hall of Heroes Comic Con 2022, Elkhart, Indiana, USA
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