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Panels are the bread and butter of many media fan cons. While con evenings are often filled with assorted different activities, from karaoke to filking to vidshows, the daytimes are filled with panels.
Panels at fan cons tend to be run on the "unconference" model. Rather than being an opportunity for experts to hold forth, they're an opportunity for fans to talk with each other about given fannish subjects. They work on the model that presumes that all attendees are experts, by virtue of being fans.
How panels are chosen
Usually well in advance of the con, the fans who'll be attending the con submit panel suggestions. Sometimes the comcon chooses the most interesting balance of panels, and sometimes the membership of the con votes on which panels are most interesting or compelling. Each panel typically has between one and three moderators, who may prepare discussion questions and/or hand-outs. Their role is typically not (only) to speak themselves, but to moderate discussion and to keep the conversation flowing smoothly.
Conventions may offer discounts on admission for attendees who are presenting. In some cases a con will pay for a group to do a "more professional" panel.
What makes a good panel?
A good panel is one which provokes intense conversation among fans. And stays on topic, an often difficult challenge.
Kinds of panels
- fandom-specific panels
- track (panels dedicated to particular characters or fandoms)
- meta track (panels for multi-fandom discussion or for discussion of issues that exist in many fandoms.)
- Dead Dog Panel
Some Tips and How To's on Panels and Programming
See Programming Special Edition, Archived version, 2006, written for a Harry Potter Symposium