- Before you go to the panel, go to the bathroom. I am not kidding. You can probably hold your water for the length of the panel discussion, but audience members may want to talk to you after the panel, and you may embarrass yourself and annoy them if you say, “I’d love to talk to you, but can you wait for like ten or fifteen minutes while I hunt for a bathroom and, y’know, use it?” Emptying yourself out beforehand can prevent this problem.
- Bring a bottle of water. The convention may not supply it, and talking can be thirsty work. But sip rather than guzzle, lest you run into the bathroom problem again.
- If possible, answer questions with anecdotes. If the moderator asks how you create a story, you may want to talk about some vague generality like inspiration vs. perspiration; but the audience will get more out of the experience if you pick a specific story that you’ve created and tell what inspired it.
- When you aren’t talking, look at the person who is. I’ve seen a panelist talking while two other panelists whisper, giggle, or pass notes to each other. The audience notices, and the panelist who’s talking feels that no one’s paying attention. It’s rude and embarrassing.
- Listen closely when people ask you questions. Time after time, I’ve heard a moderator or audience member ask a question, only to hear a panelist give an answer that doesn’t quite match it. The audience reacts with confusion or annoyance. If you’re not sure about the question, ask the questioner or repeat or clarify it.
Next: Tips for moderators.