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Spring and summer are convention season for the comic-book business and other fields as well. I’ve been to hundreds of panel discussions as an audience member, a panelist, and a moderator.

A lot of panels, including some of mine, offer only a few gems of real interest surrounded by endless fog of less interesting talk.

But some have been great, I’ve studied them closely, and I’ve assembled some tips on making panels work. I’ve divided them into a series of blog posts — one for audience members, one for panelists, and one for moderators. Many of these tips apply not just to comics conventions but to any convention or trade show.

To begin, here are some tips for everyone.

  • Keep questions and comments short. Time can move faster than you expect during a panel discussion.
  • Get to panels early. Coming in late, walking around the room and finding a seat distracts everyone else from what a panelist is saying.
  • Avoid trivia. At a trade show for comics retailers, I attended an hour-long panel about the then-new Free Comic Book Day, one of the most important innovations in comics retail worldwide. Since FCBD was new, a lot of retailers had questions about whether and how to implement it. But nearly 20 percent of the time was wasted debating (and I’m not making this up) whether the FCBD store banner should have red highlights or purple ones.

Next: Tips for audience members.