Tips to Host a Great Panel at a Convention

You’ve been to conventions and experienced panels that are good and bad. Now you want to make your own panel and enhance the cosplay community around you by contributing with an amazing panel! Where do you start? Here are some tips to host a great panel at a convention!

Take a general idea and add an interactive spin.

You want to host a Q&A Panel for a fandom? Do something different with the Q&A. You want to do a cosplay demonstration workshop? Include a raffle. You want to do a more informative panel? Add some audience interactive icebreakers. Basically, take a general idea and make it more interactive for your audience. Nothing is more boring to just listen to someone ramble and talk on stage– make it interesting for your audience.

Dream Daddy Panelists at 2019 Momocon in Atlanta, GA hosted by myself.

How do I add an interactive spin?

For example, I wanted to do a dating panel for the Dream Daddy fandom since the game is a dating simulator. I thought to myself, “How will I get people interested in this panel? I just don’t want the audience member to fake-date one of the cast members on stage and not have any prompts…” So I came up with the idea for a jeopardy style dating panel where the audience chose what happened on the date through a series of powerpoint prompts. It was a hit! Take a general idea and add an interactive spin.

This is a time to really “think out of the box,” and brainstorm with yourself or fellow peers. The brainstorming process can be as simple as a word cloud or googling “interactive icebreakers” for your panel and see what fits.

Hetalia Panel at 2013 Evillecon hosted by Jaden Zackary Devine

Retain your audience by keeping them engaged.

The best advice I can give to someone (since I have a degree in public relations) when running a panel? You’re there for the community and the people in the room– you’re not there to showboat yourself or your cast. The reason you are standing right there is because of the people in that room ready to support your panel. Armed with that information, let’s keep them engaged!

  • Offer a raffle to keep them there until the end. Raffle some items that pertain to your panel!
  • Offer candy for answering questions, interacting, etc.
  • Include activities that engage your audience more than just an informational panel like games, icebreakers, and trivia.
  • Involve the audience at any point you can, even if it’s just highlighting questions at the end

Choose a title worthy of an audience

Instead of “Kingdom Hearts Q&A,” which is generic in nature, make things fun! “Traverse Town Talk,” or “Why is Donald a Healer?” to make the title more interesting and grab your readers when they scan the schedule. I had an Overwatch panel and instead of naming it “Games with Overwatch,” it was named “I need healing! Overwatch Games.”

Follow-up the title with a killer intro!

Use call-to-action words in your description and be creative with your wording. For the panels listed above, a good intro might look like:

Why is Donald a Healer?” “Come join us to adventure into the question of ‘why is Donald a healer in Kingdom Hearts if he never heals me?’ and many more with our interactive adventure of traveling through Disney worlds with a keyblade and enjoying some free candy and games!

Make a Facebook Event – or other similar social media awareness

You can always make a facebook event, or another platform of social media, to boost your panel’s awareness. You can invite all your friend whether they are going to the convention or not, and have them get a sneak peek of your awesome panel! You can post updates and even do a live-feed during the panel. Also, photos and after-panel content will be a great resource from that page.

Make a panel about something you’re passionate about

Yamacon 2018 Black Butler Panel with myself and friends

Whether you’re into sewing, wig styling, anime reviews, or community fandoms– you can literally make a panel out of anything. My best friend is a nurse and made a “Cosplay and Safety” panel where they discussed basic first aid and implied a good jargon of anime related content to educate and entertain. It was a wonderful panel! Be creative and ultimately have fun!

It might be smart to invest a little cash into the panel — but not required.

I know often with my panels, I can use props that I get from websites like Oriental Trading Company or Party City. These are not required to make a panel a good panel, but sometimes a little cash can show your dedication to your panels by providing raffle items, candy, or props. I know I did an Overwatch panel that had games including moving the payload with trivia– which required I use some cardboard boxes as a payload. You don’t have to spend a ton of money, but just a few dollars really can make a difference in making your panel special!

Network, Network, Network!

Sewing panel at 2019 Asheville Regional Convention with Atomic Baby Cosplay

Getting feedback from a current panel you’ve ran, speaking with audience members after the panel, or even providing handouts that contain your website or social media after the panel can make a huge impact on your audience. For example, for my Cosplay 101 panels, I always provide a printed list of resources and has my website as a place to go for them to always use. If they can’t remember this one wig website? They can use the handout or my website to get where they need to be.

Use a visual guide if needed

Google Slides is a great free powerpoint you can use for your panel. Canva is a wonderful website for free reign graphics and tools to create beautiful charts and powerpoints as well. Be sure to bring a VGA cable or a HDMI cable to your presentation as they may not be provided!

In conclusion

My hope is that this has provided you some light on what you can do to make sure your panel is a success! Do you have any tips on how to make a panel awesome? Comment below!

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