Panels are usually pretty easy, even for those of us who aren’t crazy about public speaking. Usually you’re seated (and frequently behind a table.) You’ll need to remember to bring a book and a plate stand to put the book on (or else prop the book up with a couple of other books.) Bring water, just in case they don’t provide it…my mouth gets dry when I’m nervous.
I’m an early bird anyway, but I always try to arrive at a panel especially early. That way I’ve got a chance to put my promo things out on the special table they’ve usually got out, find out how the venue is handling book sales (is there a volunteer from Friends of the Library helping? Is there a bookstore that has a table and is selling them? Am I responsible for selling my own books?) I always bring lots of ones and fives in case I need to make change…just in case.
Arriving early also means that I have a chance to get acquainted with the audio equipment, find out where I’ll be sitting, and greet and speak to attendees as they come in (which, although I’m introverted, makes me less nervous about speaking to a roomful of people.)
Occasionally, I’ve had to apologize and ask the panel moderator to repeat a question. Either I won’t hear the question or the author who answered it before me got off track and rambled and I forgot the question. It’s better than making up my own question to answer and not having it be germane.
If you’re stumped by the question or need an extra minute to consider your answer, then you can always ask the question to be repeated to give yourself extra time.
There are a couple of things that I’ve noticed are considered bad etiquette on panels. If you’ve written seven or eight books? That’s terrific, but don’t put them all on display in front of you. Other authors get irked. Usually the venue has a table along the conference room wall where you can display books, bookmarks, etc. Pick your last couple of releases.
Also, watch your time when you’re speaking. Sometimes authors get overly-enthusiastic and the audience warms to them and they tend to get verbose. This cuts into everyone’s time and makes the other authors think unkind thoughts. This can be dangerous when the other authors write murder mysteries. :)
Sometimes panelists look like they’re zoning, I’ve noticed. I think it’s a good idea to at least look like you’re attentive when another panelist is talking, even if you’re planning what you’re going to say.
Consider limiting the number of times you give the name of your book during the panel. Some folks tend to get a little carried away.
Depending on the panel, you might want to contact the panel moderator and offer to send him or her a bio, and even a copy of your book ahead of time.
Practice summing up your book in a few, interesting but pithy sentences. Prepare for common questions like “are you anything like your protagonist?” “What’s your writing process like?” and “What are you working on now?”
It’s nice to write a note to the moderator or the event organizer to thank them for the appearance.
Although I’m not someone who enjoys in-person appearances, panels are my favorite public speaking venue.
I know I’ve got some panelists out there…and moderators, too! Any additional tips?