9 Ways to Stop Your SXSW Panel From Sucking | February 24, 2009

Each year, hundreds of assorted geeks will get the chance to speak on a panel at SXSW, many for the first time. I’ve witnesses some truly inspiring and thought provoking sessions at SXSW. However I’ve also had to sit through my share of turkeys, from the mind numbingly boring to the painfully embarrassing. So here are my top 9 ways to stop your panel sucking.

  1. Keep your introductions short and sweet. Nobody wants to hear your life story.
  2. Create drama. Panels suck if everybody agrees, so don’t be afraid to argue.
  3. Plan your panels in advance. Don’t tell your audience you met for the first time that morning.
  4. Alternatively keep it spontaneous. Don’t tell your audience about the great discussion you had over breakfast.
  5. Make your responses snappy. Don’t hog the mic and don’t waffle.
  6. Don’t try to be be smart, cute or wacky if you’re none of those things.
  7. Be interesting. Try to entertain and inspire as much as educate.
  8. Keep the pace going. A good panel will live and die by it’s moderator.
  9. Audience questions need to be short and to the point. Cut people off if you need to.

As I’m on a panel for the first time this year (I normally do presentations) hopefully I’ll heed my own advice and manage not to suck.

Posted at February 24, 2009 10:53 PM


Taylor McKnight said on February 25, 2009 2:01 AM

Or for the SCHED* impaired you can add this panel to your schedule here:

These are some great tips Andy, I sent it to a few folks. Looking forward to seeing you at the British Boozeup!

Tim Kadlec said on February 26, 2009 2:50 PM

Some good points, but in particular these:
“Make your responses snappy…..Keep the pace going.”

Last year was my first SXSW and I enjoyed it immensely, but the few panels that I did attend that were ‘subpar’ were mainly as a result of not following those two rules in particular.

It’s interesting, because I thought that solo presentations were more consistent in quality, while the panels varied a bit. If executed properly though, panels had a higher ceiling. Getting four for five perspectives on a topic can be very valuable.

Scott McDaniel said on March 10, 2009 10:16 PM

Hey Andy,

And now all those turkey’s (or real winners) can be followed in real time. We at SurveyGizmo just put out http://rate.sxsw.com partnering with the SXSW folks.

Just say NO to small green paper evaluation forms on the floor! Rate.sxsw.com runs on mobile devices & browsers. Panels are rated in several areas and stats shared with live graphs.

You can also rate individual panelists but those stats are private to protect the occasionally guilty ;-)

It’s live now, but voting doesn’t open until a session begins.

Let’s have lunch again while we’re there.

Take care,

Xal said on March 26, 2009 1:25 AM

“itís = it is”. Otherwise, good post.

(BTW, I learned of your newsfeed from Boagworld.)