So I'm going to be on my first-ever panel at this year's Bouchercon, one on historical forensics, what your sleuth can and can't know. I'm the only one on the panel who won't actually have the book there as it isn't scheduled to be released until *next* fall! But I will have lovely bookmarks and bookplates to give away. Now, I'm no shrinking violet, but I've never been on a panel before. Any advice from old hands? I realize that we will get the questions ahead of time and can even write our own (so now you know the dirty little secrets of panels) but it still seems nerve-wracking. Besides bringing my own flask, any suggestions?

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I realize that we will get the questions ahead of time and can even write our own (so now you know the dirty little secrets of panels) but it still seems nerve-wracking.

Not always true in my experience. Depends on the moderator. Most panels I've been on that I haven't moderated have not had the question list provided before the event, in some cases the panelists don't even meet beforehand.

When I moderate I do things a bit differently myself. Not every panelist gets the same questions. I try to tailor at least one question to the individual because of their experience so that it shakes things up. I'm personally bored to tears sitting in sessions where question is asked and the panelists, one after the other, answer. I prefer panels that are like a discussion and allow for interaction. However, those are harder to moderate, and not everyone has had experience with public speaking or moderating. Unfortunately. (My 2 cents is that this is one of the most critical areas for authors to focus on improving their skills in because all the pretty ads and good reviews won't change the spectacular impact of being bad on a panel. Sit with readers at conventions (this is the plus of going to conventions as a reader beforehand) and you'll see them cross names out of programs when someone's bad on a panel.

Be interesting. Don't put promotional all over the chairs in the room before the audience comes in. (That's my 2 cents anyway. B'con is just one pile of promo junk going in the garbage after another, a lot of money spent that will prove wasted if the readers sitting in the audience don't connect to you and develop enough interest in you to want to seek out your book. And in your case, without a book out, you should be branding your own name for memory, not your book. A year out is too soon to promote a title, so you want them to remember 'I liked that Jeri from that interesting panel.') Don't hog the discussion and for heaven's sake, don't just talk about your book. I remember anecdotes from panels by the likes of Val McDermid, Mark Billingham, Natasha Cooper, Simon Kernick, Michael Connelly and others from 2005 from Harrogate but nobody talked about their books.

And a side note on pet peeves as an audience member, don't sit with a plastered-on grin or one expression that never changes throughout the panel. If you doubt your ability to speak in public or be expressive do a dry run and have yourself filmed. (Volunteer to read aloud in a library or something, and just have yourself videoed.) But having met you Jeri, I think you'll be fine on that side of things.
Thanks, Sandra. Good points. All helpful hints.
Relax and be yourself. This was my first year "on tour," but I did six conferences and about 10 panels. It was much easier going than I imagined. Be prepared to talk about the things you want to talk about though. Maybe a little list.
I've been on two Bouchercon panels. The first was a disaster that began with last minute room reassignments and more panelists than the setup allowed for and it progressed with one panel member cutting into the other members' time again and again to push his own book. The other panel was lightly structured. We all had a general idea of questions/topics, and everyone on the panel was very courteous to the other members. As the topic was broad and general, we did not stick to the questions. Also, while the issue was general (setting), there was a chance for each of us to talk at least once about how we handled a particular problem. After the panelists had their say, the audience asked questions. These, of course, one isn't prepared for. I enjoyed the panel very much and am told that the audience did also. So much depends on the other panelists. Try to meet them ahead of time.
I hope I can. It's set for 11:00 am Thursday, naturally. Probably one of the first ones. And it's structured like a game show, like Jeopardy. So...That just seems a little harder to me. But what the hay.
Meeting ahead is critical. My experience at B'con was that one of the panelists never responded to any of the group email discussions before the event, and we hadn't met, and 5 minutes before the panel they hadn't shown up either. We didn't know if the person was coming.

Personally, I hate that. If you're going to be on a panel do the prep to be prepared. Nobody's entitled to be on a panel, and if you expect people to listen to you you need to contribute to making the panel a success. I've been going around reading the Harrogate reports. It's interesting to note that everyone criticized the same panel, and talked positively about the same panels. The names that are coming up are the names from the panels that impressed. That's how you want to be remembered, and it isn't just for the 50-100 people in the audience at your panel. When you're at a convention people are intersecting in the halls, between other panels and over meals. They're sharing who they enjoyed and didn't. And then it carries over to the internet.

(This is my on my hobby horse because as a moderator it ticks me off if panelists don't respond to prep emails, and as a reader who spent thousands attending cons before having a book out it burns me to go to a panel where it's obvious the participants aren't prepared.)
I've been on a bunch of panels. I was nervous at first, but now I'm pretty relaxed. Your own flask isn't a bad idea. The thing is, everybody is there because they want to be. It's not as if it's a required course in school. So unless you do something to alienate them, you start out with them on your side. I wouldn't prepare too much, spontaneity always seems to be appreciated. You can usually get by, simply by reacting to what the other people on the panel have had to say. The main thing is to try and be relatively succinct and not drone on at any great length - you'll make your fellow panelists mad if you do that. (I actually kicked someone under the table once. I'm not going to say who.) Take some deep breaths, when you speak, pick a friendly face out of the audience and mostly speak to them like you would at a cocktail party. (You'll have to pretend to look around some also, or you might start some rumors.) Enjoy it, it's fun once you get over the initial nerves, and it usually sells some books down the line, even if your book isn't available right then and there.
Thanks, Eric. I'm hoping to have fun with it.
Like to make 'em laugh. That's an easy one (oops. Now that I said it...)


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