I recently wrote a couple of posts about moderating panels at conventions and conferences, one on preparing and one on procedures. I realized I should say something about being a panelist, as well.

1. Prepare.

At the very least, read over the panel description and decide how you would answer the questions it poses. If the description asks for things, such as a list of recommendations, it helps me to write them down. I can’t always remember book titles and the like once a discussion gets going. If you don’t know enough about the topic, some research might be in order.

2. It isn’t all about you.

Panels are a team effort. You are very likely there to publicize something: your books, yourself as someone employable, a particular cause. If you have interesting, thought-provoking contributions to the topic at hand, people will generally go away with a good impression, and might want to learn more about you.

If you repeatedly interrupt others or drag the discussion off-topic (or towards your own work), you’re likely giving a very bad impression. Everyone gets caught up in talking once in a while; hopefully, the moderator will help to keep this from happening. But it helps to try and keep track for yourself, as well.

Remember that most people will come to hear a panel for the topic, not the participants, so staying on topic is always a priority. If they do come to hear a particular participant, they should get that chance rather than listening to you describe your book’s plot for the seventh time, or how your cat always vomits on your copy of the novel you’re discussing. (Well…okay, maybe, if you happen to be good at making people laugh…maybe. But only say it once.)

3. Be courteous.

Most of #2 was about being courteous, but I think it’s important to reiterate. In general, people paid to come and hear this panel. Panels are more for the audience than the panelists. Don’t waste their time and money.