Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Now Presenting... FanX

(Guest Post by Spencer F)

Celebrities, fans, authors, creators... so much of the comic convention experience is the panels presented. Whenever I've described to others what I did at any convention, why I enjoy it so much, the panel programming is high on the list.

So this year for FanX I decided to experience panels from the other side of the stage. Early in June I submitted 5 panel suggestions in the hope that at least one would be accepted. Imagine my surprise and excitement a few weeks later when I was notified that 4 of them had been accepted! Now, I had assisted with occasional panels in the past, but going from assisting with ONE to planning and presenting FOUR in the same convention is quite the jump!

The programming committee wants panel submissions to be presentation-ready before submitting. I absolutely didn't do that, and it meant last-minute work the night before for each panel. Fortunately, the panels were spread out across the days, so we were able to take that time to discuss, prepare, and polish.

On Thursday I presented "One and Done: Legacy and Other Non-replayable Board Games" with my wife and a gaming friend. We talked about Pandemic Legacy, Risk Legacy, Seafall, the Unlock and Exit series of games, Gloomhaven, and several other titles. The thesis was simple: non-replayable board games are worth the cost and certainly worth playing. The turnout wasn't huge, but I think the audience enjoyed it, and we certainly did. 

That night we stayed up late prepping for two panels on Friday: "The Rise of Modern Board Gaming" and "Bluey: Taking Advice from a Cartoon Dog." There were five panelists for the first: those from One and Done along with my brother and another friend. Here I should have prepared better. I didn't have a good list of questions prepared and failed to turn it over to the audience earlier. I'll definitely learn from that in the future; either prepare a lot of my own questions or turn it to the audience earlier. I wish I had simply had the panelists introduce themselves, describe their credentials to present, then gone to the audience for discussion. Live and learn.

Luckily, we prepared well for the Bluey panel. There were over 300 attendees! This one was just my wife and I presenting and we had made really good slides. The intro and topic slides all matched the colors and font of the show, we had 20 printed bullet points, talked about several exemplary characters, and finished with some examples of parenting failures to remind us that the Heelers aren't perfect, then some audience comments. I was especially impressed by my wife presenting and speaking in this one, and the audience applauded when we finished. Someone even set up a tripod and filmed the entire presentation, which can be found on YouTube. We were actually 2 minutes late after going across the entire Salt Palace after the board game panel, so I accidentally skipped our own introduction as spouses and parents. Ah well, someone asked about our family during the audience comment time.

Finally, two friends and I presented "Grand Master Luke Skywalker" on Saturday. This was specifically about Luke from the old canon, the Expanded Universe or "Legends," as it is now known. We made it clear at the beginning that we were there to talk positively about that version of Luke and weren't there to talk about the Disney version at all. The audience wouldn't have it, though, and twice asked our opinion on Disney Luke. We tried our best to sidestep the questions and stay on topic, and also got hit with some really good questions and thoughts from the audience.

Coming out of this weekend was the most fulfilled experience I have had at a comic convention. Already the other panelists were talking about doing other panels next year. But I will know a lot better then how to prepare and run a successful panel. Some thoughts:

  • Always give time to introduce all the panelists and explain the credentials. Especially because we are coming as fans, rather than true subject matter or industry experts, this is important;
  • Know when to give the time to the audience;
  • Prepare well before the night before;
  • Strive to present something and in a way that you would want to attend;
  • Remember that a convention is a place of joy, and you are part of that joy, so be happy, and have a wonderful time

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