Have you ever had a bad panel experience?
You see the title. Your read the first line. The event looks great! You skim over the wordy yet uninformative affiliations of the panellists. You want to go; you have an opinion; you thirst for knowledge; you’re in love with the Twitter feed of one contributor and want to see if they live up to it in real life.
You put it in your diary, walk alone through the rain on a Wednesday evening, get crossed off the list, sit down. The facilitator self-aggrandizes. The panellists fumble over who will respond to which point. A few zingers fly through the room and, for ten heady minutes, a real exchange of ideas heats up the stage. Then a rambler grabs the first question of the Q&A and you throw up your metaphorical hands (because by that point, more hands up will make the event run over time). You drift out the door, not sure if you should try to start a conversation, and the audience melt into the night.
It doesn’t have to be this way. You can help. Here’s how.
- If there’s no clear agenda on the website of an event, that’s a red flag – email the organisers in advance to ask what it is, and how they plan to manage audience input.
- If the event is going to be a panel, tweet them a link to this site! It might not change the event format at short notice but it’ll give them food for thought.
- Give feedback – write it wherever you can – if you wanted to contribute or ask a question but didn’t get the chance, say so! Give constructive criticism. Point them to #beyondpanels. Use positive language – “I’d like to have more opportunity to talk directly with experts or other attendees during the event, please consider more interactive formats than a panel!”.
- Make an effort to look for, and support, events that try alternative formats. Even if they only deviate a bit from a classic format, if you think it was a worthwhile change, encourage it. Not all ‘experiments’ work, and it’s important that you are honest with feedback. But event planners must justify their decisions, and if they make an effort to get you involved, repay that effort by taking the time to let them know your thoughts.
- Run a Fun Palace at your organisation!