Convention Panel Etiquette </B>
Here's the thing: I've been going to cons and attending panels since I was a wee geekling. However, more and more lately, I see panel attendees behaving less than favorably, and it bothers me, both as an attendee and a panelist. Try to look at panels as classrooms; remember being a kid and thinking "Man, if there was a class on pokemon, I would ace it. How fun would that be?" That is essentially what a panel is. Attendees are classmates, panelists are teachers, there are no exams, and good behavior and class participation is enough to pass with an A! So, here are ten little comments I'd like to make on panel etiquette:
1) Try to arrive on time. It sounds obvious, but I say try because, well, it's a convention, and con-time is a wibbly-wobbly kind of thing. However, if you arrive late, try to do so quietly. People coming and going from a panel can be distracting both to the panelists and attendees, but it's also a fact of life.
2) Raise your hand. Pretty much everyone recognizes that a raised hand means "I have something to say!" It helps the panelist keep the panel from becoming a free-for-all, and allows everyone to have their turn.
3) Don't interrupt. This is sort of an extension of 2, but I felt it needed to be addressed separately because it's something I've seen more often than I would like. It can be so tough not to interrupt, especially if someone is saying something that is, --oh no, wrong! --or if you want to agree and chime in. However, some of the folks who attend and host panels are shy by nature, and easily steamrolled over. It feels awful when your comment gets rolled over and hijacked, and besides, interrupting is rude. Mr. Rogers said so.
4) Pay attention. Remember that person who never paid attention in class and asked the same question over and over? Let's say the panelists are moderating this amazing group conversation about the theoretical terraforming of exoplanets, and someone pops up with "Oh wait, are we talking about terraforming? Isn't that impossible?" Then, the panelists have to back up and get that person up to speed, while you're just waiting to add your two cents about the use of comets as a water source. You don't want to be that annoying person do you? Didn't think so.
5) Keep private conversations short and quiet. Yes, sometimes you have to talk to your party, but others do not want to hear your dinner plans when they've been waiting all year to attend Tara Strong's voice acting panel and hear what she has to say. In addition, it can be really disheartening to the panelist because it looks like people are disinterested in what is being discussed or presented when the panelist is putting him or herself up there in front of everyone.
6) Turn off your cell phone ringer, and if you must take a call, take it outside. Everyone forgets sometimes, however, again, no one wants to hear about your private life when they're trying to learn about costume construction. However, as far as I'm concerned… so long as the sound is off, if you want to text, or discreetly play a game (I understand that some people can listen better when their hands are occupied), that's okay, but when in doubt, keep the cell phone put away. As a side note… most panels are well-lit, however, if you're in a darkened panel with a projected presentation, the light from your cell can be distracting to others; unless you're using it to video or take photos, it's best to keep it put away at those times.
7) Don't spam. Even if it is relevant, a panel is not a place to plug your personal website, youtube, tumblr, etc., unless it is expressly asked for. We get enough of that kind of thing while watching youtube videos anyway.
8) Keep it classy. Unless a panel is specifically 18+ (that is, if your ID was checked before you entered) keep topics of conversation PG-13, and keep swearing to a minimum. I know, this is hard (I swear like a sailor) especially if there are no minors present at the moment, however, minors can walk in at any time. This can get both you, and the panelist in trouble, while also making the con look bad.
9) Respect one another's interests. Let's face it: Even within your own fandom, there are people who will like things that you hate. However, that doesn't make them any less of a fan, and that doesn't mean it's okay for you to bash their favorite pairing, character, season, animal, what-have-you. You can really hurt someone's feelings, and that's just plain callous. No one likes to feel like their OTP is threatened, after all!
10) Let the next panel get set up. Most (But not all) panels are scheduled for an hour, but actually last 45 minutes, so there's enough time for the current panel to clean up and for the next one to get set up. When the panel is over, even though you've likely made a new friend or two, move the conversation out into the hall or socializing area so the panelist(s) and attendees for the next panel can get in, get set up, and start on time.
Thank you for taking the time to read this… and have fun at your next convention!