A Guide to Comic Convention Panel Etiquette

Categories: Geek
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Adam Perez via YouTube
Don't: Talk while the guest is talking. Seriously, this shouldn't even have to be said. You're not supposed to talk when you see Patrick Stewart on screen at the movies let alone when he's in the freakin' room in front of you addressing an audience. This goes double for staff and volunteers as well. An event staff shirt does not mean the rules no longer apply to you.

Do: Ask the guest about projects, hobbies, and things not necessarily related to the geek culture work they are most famous for. Last year Frazer Hines had great stories from his time on Doctor Who almost 50 years ago, and he clearly enjoyed telling those stories to an audience, but he's also a working actor who still accepts parts to this day. Help refresh the palate of the panel by asking the guest about something other than the thing that what he or she is most known for. You'd be surprised the sort of stories you'll get that way.

Don't: Try to profit off the guests. I don't mean don't try to learn something. Some of the best advice I've ever gotten as a writer came from a panel with Gary Russell, and I use it to this day. I mean that this is not the time to try and get your screenplay/novel/independent film moved to the next level on the back of a successful professional. No matter what they're really going to do, they'll accept something you offer in front of a room because not doing that makes them look like a dick. If you're really interested in trying to connect with them on a professional level or get their opinion on something, approach them at the autograph table when it's slow and there's no pressure. Give them a choice in the matter.

Do: Share a good personal story about the way that something the guest did that improved your life or helped you through a rough patch. Keep it as concise as possible, but feel free to share it. Everyone likes hearing how they made a difference in people's lives.

Don't: Ask questions for which there are no answers. Peter Mayhew cancelled because of filming commitments, but if he had been at Comicpalooza I imagine we would have heard a million variations on "What's Episode VII is going to be like?" Either Mayhew doesn't know much himself or he's forbidden to reveal very much, and that makes any question but the first version of "How much can you tell us about the new film?" pointless. Yes, we all want to know the future, but these people's livelihoods often depend on keeping that future a surprise.

A good comic convention panel can be an unforgettable experience, but the key to that experience is for an audience to put as much work into their role in it as the guests do in theirs. See you next year.

Jef has a new story, a tale of headless strippers and The Rolling Stones, available now in Broken Mirrors, Fractured Minds. You can also connect with him on Facebook.


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2 comments
Janice Makinen
Janice Makinen

I feel like part of the problem is also the general social awkwardness shared by many people who attend these functions.........

afternoonified
afternoonified

I wish this had been posted pre-Comicpalooza and been required reading before you entered any Q&A. Between the "boxers or briefs" and "can I touch your face" questions at the Buffyverse-related panels, it made a lot of situations waaaaay more awkward than they ever should have been.

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