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Marissa Lingen

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A good example for this panel… [Feb. 3rd, 2016|09:53 am]
Marissa Lingen
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One of the things Alec and I talk about a lot is how to make panels at conventions better. Because he did the programming for Fourth Street for four years, naturally some of that conversation has been from the programming side: how do you choose panelists, how do you choose a moderator, how do you write the panel description so that the panelists don’t stare blankly at each other wondering what on earth you were thinking or wander off into the weeds. But he hasn’t been doing programming, and we’ve been talking about it from the other angle a lot more lately: as panelists, how do you do panels well.


I think one of the most interesting questions is how to get depth for those who are ready without making the new people feel completely lost at sea. And one theory I have right now that I would like to propose and see what other people think of it is what sorts of things are most useful for squee and what things are more useful for analysis. Specifically: I think that if you have a clear choice, if you have a ton of examples to choose from, the most commonly known things are best for analysis, and the least commonly known things are the best for squee. With a spectrum between, and with the possibility of giving more than one example or speaking comparatively, obviously.


Of course depending on the convention there are entire panels based on squee. These are usually clearly labeled: “Professor Whom Fans Latest Season Recap: what’s awesome, what are we looking for next season?”, that sort of thing–very different from the panel where the Professor Whom fans are analyzing the Sniffling Cherub episodes in detail and what particular motifs recur in them. But I mean in general, on a panel that invites analysis, the more commonly known a work, the more people will have access to the analytical point you try to make. Or alternately, providing triangulation–if you can think of two or three lesser known examples, you increase the odds that your listener will know one of them. So that will help with what you’re saying about how to build complex character relationships, or how to do exposition, or whatever it is that you’re analyzing.


And of course squee about lesser known things gives people more of a chance to find out about something they might not have heard about. We all get overcome by exuberance for things we love, and I don’t want to stifle that if it happens that the thing you love is loved by other people. But squee after squee can make a panel shallow. I once went to a panel that was literally only a list of anime the panelists liked. Not even descriptions. Just titles. So that’s one end of a spectrum from squee to analysis that was…I think suboptimal. I think that while there was a bonding experience to be had from the people who were saying, “And I watch this!” “Yeah!”, it was perhaps not the best panel to be had. Obviously a certain amount of spontaneity is part of the point of doing panels at all, rather than inviting individuals to give prepared speeches. But if you’re one of the panelists, you know the topic in advance, so you have a chance to think through: what am I enthusiastic about that is less known. What examples can I use that might be accessible to the listeners I have in this particular audience. Am I missing a way anything about that approach, do you think? Do you have other ideas about squee, analysis, and other panel behavior that isn’t the standard etiquette advice?




Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

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Comments:
[User Picture]From: blairmacg
2016-02-03 05:07 pm (UTC)
I think that sounds like an excellent guideline. It's a way to promote inclusion and exploration, with the latter far more likely to happen once the former has been achieved.

In my experience (which seems limited if one looks solely at my SFF con experience, but is extensive if one includes the two-plus decades of event speaking), many panelists would like to do some preparation, but most really really need concrete guidelines on how to do so. "Be prepared to talk about X," just doesn't cut it. :)

And I'd love to see better preparation from moderators in general, because a well-prepared moderator brings out the best in under-prepared and/or nerve-wracked panelists. "Let's just wing it and see if it works" is not my favorite thing to hear from moderators. ;)

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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2016-02-03 06:25 pm (UTC)
You know, I think you're right. I think that the guidelines are often etiquette-related--which sadly many people need--and rarely concrete about preparation. I think that one of the things that comes into play is the variety of topic. Even at a speculative fiction convention, "Choreographing a Fight Scene" is a very different set of preparation notes than "Cultural Appropriation and Native Americans in Middle-Grade Fantasy." So I think people get paralyzed and don't give advice for either, because they're afraid it'll be irrelevant for too many.

Whereas I think, well, if it's irrelevant you can ignore it, but people obviously need more help in how to review their own thoughts and knowledge about either topic, so you might as well try to get somewhere with it.
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[User Picture]From: swan_tower
2016-02-03 08:28 pm (UTC)
I wish more conventions would make a habit of sharing email addresses between panelists (with permission), so pre-discussion can take place.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2016-02-03 09:28 pm (UTC)
Not something people will universally take advantage of but certainly useful as a potential good.
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[User Picture]From: blairmacg
2016-02-04 12:39 am (UTC)
For the panels and workshops I do for wellness and stress, I like using the "Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue" notion.

Something old -- reference to shared knowledge and/or places of agreement and shared experience.

Something new -- reference to new or emerging research, little known aspects of popular topics, and new perspectives on old knowledge and ideas.

Something borrowed -- quoting, with proper attribution, wise words from others, using the quote as a starting place for exploration and extrapolation

Something blue -- a nostalgic reference or a personal story of relevance. It doesn't need to be sad, despite the blue! But it does need to be something that offers connection and empathy to the audience, and it should be used sparingly.

Hmm. Maybe I should write this up in better detail.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2016-02-04 01:47 am (UTC)
I really think there is value in more concrete stuff about how to prepare for being on panels. Different approaches, like the one you describe. I don't want to push you specifically if you don't have time and inclination, but I really do think that it can help people to have these ideas, either to use directly or to run in their own directions with.
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[User Picture]From: blairmacg
2016-02-04 02:14 am (UTC)
This is something easy to write in between, in small blocks of time. I'll work on it!
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[User Picture]From: cloudscudding
2016-02-05 02:35 pm (UTC)
Oh, good mnemonic!
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[User Picture]From: redbird
2016-02-03 05:58 pm (UTC)
Even if it's "squee about your favorite anime" the panelists shouldn't have needed to be told "and a little bit about why it's so cool." Most of the time, people want to say something like "$BestAnime is a really cool story about wizards fighting the IRS!" or "I liked this one because it's about three girls saving the world, but they can't tell their parents" or "if you like that one, you'll really like this, because it's the same artist and a better story."
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[User Picture]From: finnyb
2016-02-03 08:15 pm (UTC)

Wizards fighting the IRS...this needs to happen, in some format or another.

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[User Picture]From: swan_tower
2016-02-03 08:27 pm (UTC)
I'm pretty much wholly uninterested in the panels that are clearly just "let's list things we like that fit this topic!" Even with discussion of why people like them. I am very much there for the analysis: not just "I like it because X," but "it does a really good job of handling X, because there are the following challenges and this author has some great solutions to those challenges." From that perspective, yes, analyzing the more familiar stuff and squeeing about the less familiar is a good approach.
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[User Picture]From: sartorias
2016-02-03 08:28 pm (UTC)
Squee can also make a panel irksome when the panelists and the two front rows have been friends for years, and there is much time taken up with high fiving each other for the wittiness of their inside jokes.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2016-02-03 09:33 pm (UTC)
Yes, one of the questions is: what are we here for? If what we are here for is to refer to the existence of old inside jokes and then go home, well, we need to organize the weekend differently. You can do that! But billing it as an open convention interested in science fiction is not really truth in advertising; that is better arranged as a gathering of old friends.

Squee can include: "you're so lucky, you get to read X for the first time! I can't wait to talk about it with you! I'm so excited to get to tell you about it!" Or it can exclude: "Oh my GAWD, you haven't read Y? I can't believe you haven't read it, how can you even consider yourself a writer without it?" For something positive, it requires careful handling.
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[User Picture]From: sartorias
2016-02-03 09:48 pm (UTC)
Yup. Nodding here like a jackinthebox.

BTW I secured travel tickets for the train to MPLS for Fourth street (before they could sell out), so I'm keeping an eye out for all discussions.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2016-02-03 09:57 pm (UTC)
OH GOLLY. See you in June!
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[User Picture]From: sartorias
2016-02-03 11:08 pm (UTC)
It's the only con I'm going to this year--so looking forward to it!
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[User Picture]From: blairmacg
2016-02-04 12:33 am (UTC)
YAAAAAAAAAAYYY!!!!!

Not that this excites me or anything... :)
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[User Picture]From: sartorias
2016-02-04 01:40 am (UTC)
:-)
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[User Picture]From: rosefox
2016-02-08 05:57 am (UTC)
One of my dearest friends is on my "do not put me on a panel with this person" list, because if we're on a panel together it turns into the Rose and Graham Show and that's really only fun for the two of us.
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[User Picture]From: rezendi
2016-02-04 02:29 am (UTC)
I wonder if making the aim explicit in the title might help. "Non-Obvious Awesome Things About [Show / Series X]", for instance. Might make the panelists work harder from the proverbial get-go.
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[User Picture]From: swan_tower
2016-02-04 10:19 am (UTC)
I wholeheartedly believe that the first step in improving panels is to improve panel descriptions. I kind of want to write an article titled "Do Yes/No Questions Make a Good Premise for a Panel?", but nobody would bother to read it -- which would very neatly make my central point for me, but I do have other things I would want to say in that hypothetical article.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2016-02-04 12:37 pm (UTC)
I would be interested in those other things.
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[User Picture]From: rosefox
2016-02-04 07:17 am (UTC)
I have no joke here, I just like saying "Sniffling Cherub".
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2016-02-04 12:37 pm (UTC)
Thank you, I couldn't resist.
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