Being a panelist

The terrifying event I had last Friday, was being a panelist. I’ve never been on a panel before. And I didn’t feel like I was really all that knowledgeable about the topic area. In fact, I hesitated on accepting in the first place, and then spent all the time after regretting saying yes. Of course, there was a huge amount of time between accepting and the panel, and I ended up so busy, that I didn’t think about it much. And so when I was really realizing this was not a smart idea, I felt like it was too late – since it was now getting so close and they’d have to find someone else.

So, I decided I would suck it up and follow through. And I figured, worse case, I’d say very little, and just try to blend into the background. But either way, I knew it’d be a valuable experience. It was also just a local campus event, which meant the pressure was a bit lower. I wasn’t about to embarrass myself in front of a whole pile of scholars on the topic. And it was happening in a different department – which meant most of the people I work with didn’t know about it and didn’t come (whew).

There were good things about it. I got the experience of being on a panel. It wasn’t a big event. I survived. It went okay. And it’s now over.

The bad parts were a bit bigger. The big “headliner” on the panel got the dates mixed up and wasn’t there. Which meant it was down to me and one other student to now “be” the panel. A lot of pressure for two people. The organizer was obviously put out of sorts by the fact their main panelist was not there. And so instead of being able to completely use the prepared question list, started stumbling through questions halfway through, trying to modify them to not need the missing expertise.

Another good thing about this panel, was that I learned a lot about how to put on a panel. How important it is to have questions well though out ahead of time. How important it is to have a dedicated time period for questions from the audience (because if you don’t, most of the audience won’t get involved). How important it is to triple confirm dates and times with panelists so that you don’t end up with the no-show. (Although, this really wasn’t the organizers fault, it had the right date in all the emails – one of those times where you assume it’s on a different day of the week and don’t confirm against the given information).

Would I go on a panel again? Yes, I think so. But, and this would be important, I’d want to go on one where I felt like I had more expertise to offer. I was really glad, at the end of the day, that this panel was really about opinions. And so, while I may not have really had enough knowledge to be there (in my opinion), I had two things going for me – 1) I have a ton of opinions on everything and 2) I read and absorb facts pretty well, so I could at least talk about some studies to make my answers sound more important.

However, I’m still really glad it’s over and another thing I could cross of my list.


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