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For the past four years or so I’ve been running or participating in lolita panels at anime conventions, and yet I don’t think I’ve ever done a post of tips and tricks about panel-running. So here I am to talk about panels! This first post will be about planning for your panel, and then I’ll have another one a little later on about actually running things.

  • Make sure you want to run a panel. If the idea of public speaking makes your knees turn to jelly, this is definitely not the gig for you. If you’re very new to the fashion, it’s probably also not the best idea. Make sure that the dates of the con are free for you as much as you possibly can.
  • Decide what kind of panel you want to run! There’s a lot of options as far as panels go. I think the easiest to run is a general intro to lolita panel, it’s a good panel to start out with if you haven’t done anything like this before. I’ve done a budget panel and also a lolita social, which was kind of like a meetup. I’ve seen people run tea parties, but make sure to pay attention to your con’s rules as far as food goes and make sure to bring enough of it if it’s okay! I’ve heard about Iron Lolita panels, which is where you separate contestants into teams and have them make “lolita” outfits out of things like duct tape, toilet paper, etc. You could also cover multiple Japanese fashions if you’re into others, or focus specifically on one facet of lolita like lifestyle or making your own lolita. You could even plan a full fashion show if you’re ambitious. There’s endless options, it’s really just all up to you and your preferences!
  • Help? After you’ve decided what sort of panel you’re going to do, you’ll need to decide what kind of help you need. Do you need panelists to answer questions? If you’re a bit nervous about public speaking, it might help to have a few friends up with you to make you feel more comfortable and talk when you feel stuck. If you’re looking into any sort of fashion show scenario or any larger operation like an Iron Lolita panel, you’ll need some volunteers to help organize things! Your local lolita community is a great source for that, or if there’s not much of one you can try asking around the convention forums.
  • Technology. So now that you’ve got your panel idea and your helpers, you’re going to need to figure out what sort of tech you’ll be using. My local con has a little check list when you sign up for the panel of tech stuff you’ll need, but it’s a good idea to think about before you get to that point. Most of the time they’ll have microphones and a projector set up, but you’ll need to bring your own laptop and make sure all the cords they have are compatible. If you’ll be needing audio or anything else more specific, make sure to keep that in mind when signing up.
  • Practice! Especially if you’re doing the panel by yourself. This is a great way to see if your timing is good and also to see if your powerpoint flows well if you’re using one. If your panel is an hour long panel, I’d suggest having your presentation be about 35-40 minutes. That gives you time for questions at the end and for the panel after you to have some set-up time.
  • Time is a really important consideration when signing up for a panel. I try to have a list of cosplay photoshoots that I’m planning on participating in before going to sign up for a potential panel time if I can. Try to avoid any major events like Cosplay, and if you’re staying in a hotel try and rule out check-out time (I’ve done that a couple of times, stressful as hell). Friday can be a little hit-or-miss because a lot of convention traffic is high schoolers and they won’t be there until the afternoon, so if you’re doing a panel while school is still in session keep that in mind. Other than that I find that most other panel times are pretty good. Sundays are nice because there’s less going on, but I’ve had panels work just as well on a Friday night or Saturday.
  • Sign up! Most panels have an online form set up for people who want to do panels. It varies from con to con when it goes online, just pay attention to their website is my best advice. It might also be a good idea to do a post on the con’s forums about what you’re planning to do or at least skim over the posts to make sure there’s not a panel that’s the exact same as yours already in the works.

Whew! That’s a lot of information all at once, I know. I hope this was useful, and look out for the other half of this series soon!