Over the years, I have been asked to participate on a number of panels. Some of the experiences have been very positive—I have learned a lot and met some really terrific people. Some of them, however, have been…less than perfect.
In order to understand exactly how a panel should proceed, I went on Google (but, of course) and found some good advice. When things go smoothly, everyone has a good time. Sadly, that’s not always the case.
A while back I was asked to be a part of a panel on the state of self-publishing. Having a lot to say on the subject (and I thought a good amount of knowledge as well), I agreed. Everything began positively, but then one of the participants simply hijacked the proceedings and took over the discussion. Soon, the panel moderator lost all control. At the time, I vowed never to repeat that experience.
Last year, I moderated a panel, chose the participants and presided over a lively session. That experience was a good one. I very briefly introduced myself and then each of the participants and made sure that each of them contributed equally to the discussion. It was, I thought, very successful and I think the audience learned a great deal—and we all enjoyed ourselves.
Over the weekend, I again participated on a publishing panel. This time, the moderator not only took far too long to relate her own story, but then interrupted me and the others in mid-speech. Everyone in the audience noticed and even commented on this afterward. Her behavior was offensive and disrespectful and, because of this, I was unable to fully enjoy this particular event.
Panels are meant to inform and teach. Moderators should use their position to control each speaker and support them and to move things along, not as a bully pulpit. I think after this last experience (combined with some of my previous ones), I will limit the panels in which I participate in the future. We publishing folks do these things in our free time and they take us away from other important activities. I would much rather “teach” and learn than be diminished by someone who either deliberately or through ignorance doesn’t follow the etiquette of panel participation.
What has your experience been as a participant in panels or audience member?