I have been going to DragonCon since 2004. I had spent several years volunteering as staff or simply attending on my own dime, going to panels and taking in all of the stimulation overload that the Con has to offer. The panels I attended were packed with very smart people; all knowledgeable in their field or experts in their fandom of choice. They put many people to shame. I was in awe at the panels I attended and always left well informed. After so many years I began to realize, "Hey...I'm smart. Hey, I'm knowledgeable in my fandoms. I mean crap...I've won the Supernatural Guru award on Supernatural.tv three years running!" It made me wonder why I couldn't have something to say on these types of panels, and which ones I could have something to say at to begin with. The desire to start talking in front of groups of my nerdy peers became a truly burning desire in my gut; I just needed to figure out where to start. With the use of Facebook and Twitter I was able to join the various groups that existed for all of the tracks that I loved at the Con, and with that came announcements of panelist applications as Con time approached. With wide and happy eyes I clicked on applications and didn't look back. But after you apply, what happens when you are accepted? I'll tell you. You have to talk in front of dozens to possibly hundreds of people!
Picture people in their underwear? Stare at the back of the wall instead of faces? Let's dive into the various tips and tactics for being a DragonCon panelist.
First off comes the hard part; applying. Where do you start? Do you want to speak on one panel or several? All in a couple of days or spread out? First thing's first: Look at the track schedules or tentative schedules. Check which track fits your expertise or area of interest/favorite fandoms and see if they have any panels you might be interested in. Keep an eye out on their website/Twitter/Facebook, as they will updates on these sites as to when panelist applications open. When they do they will link the application or the contact information for the track staff. Fill out what you want and send the request. I usually apply for several just in case slots fill up quickly; if someone that has better qualifications than I do is selected for one panel then I am still in the running for another. If you are selected for too many panels on too many tracks and weren't expecting such a great response just remember; you have permission to say "No" to any that you just have too full of a dance cart to squeeze in. And besides, having too many panels want you is not only good for your options, but also flattery. Feel good, my friend.
Some feel that being a panelist feels like work while on vacation. Heck no. It is freaking fun. I love doing it; I have three panels lined up this year myself. If you feel you have something to say or something to contribute to a fandom then approach the track and apply for a slot. Just remember these tips and it's smooth sailing. Have fun talking!
Wanna see some examples? Here are the panels I referenced in this piece.
Christina Sizemore is trained in only four things: writing, fighting, paranormal investigating, and being a mom. At this point in her life she truly feels that she is not qualified to attempt to learn any new field. A twenty year martial artist, mother of three, and writer who is working on the publication of her first book titled “Finding Your Way: A Guide To Your Path In The Martial Arts,” she spends her days working out, writing, making fanvids, going to DragonCon, and playing board games/video games/out in the yard with her kids and husband who are just as geeky as she is. She is convinced that one day her skills will be of assistance in the Zombie Apocalypse and that while she is of no use in the kitchen, she can Buffy that zombie for ya or teach you the best way to get the blood stains out of your clothes (Psst…the secret is mixing Crown Cleaner and Shout. Just sayin’.)