For years, I’ve seriously desired hosting a panel at an anime or video game convention. Sheer nervousness, impostor’s syndrome, and the feeling that I never had a good enough hook worth pursuing, however, always kept me hesitant. I finally broke the spell last weekend, at the Castle Point Anime Convention.
Not only did I attend my fair share of panels, I ran one of them myself.
It only took like five (if not more) years to bite the bullet once and for all. That combination of self doubt and the lack of a topic that I felt I could really bite into was just too strong. Then, with the recently past Fall 2017 anime season, came the new anime for Kino’s Journey.
And that was when it hit me: I could make a panel out of comparing the original anime series with this new one. FINALLY! A hook strong enough to overcome my feelings of trepidation!
So on the day of the deadline for the first round of Castle Point panel applications, I made my submission through their Google Docs form. They accepted it. With a panel slot ensured, and a free two-day pass included as one of the perks, this effort was officially on.
Here’s my spot on the Saturday schedule!
Here’s my little blurb in the CPAC 2018 program guide!
And here’s (a modified version of) the title slide!
The crux of this little panel was my contention that the two anime series ended up being not only significantly different adaptations of a common source—Keiichi Sigsawa’s light novels—but were different in ways that directly clashed with each other, something that was especially evident when looking at the episodes for three stories that both shows told. Thus, most of my time was spent talking about those stories...and, yeah, why I felt the 2003 anime was much better at them than the recently-aired 2017 series.
So how did it go? In short, simultaneously better and worse than I hoped.
Better in that it had a pretty nice turnout, and everybody really liked it! We all even engaged in some spirited discussion afterward, regrettably cut short (my bad) thanks to going over time. Worse in that I was a total nervous wreck and a mess throughout it all. I am profoundly, undeservedly lucky that everyone who saw me had the patience to stick through my bullshit, let alone have such a positive reception afterwards.
Here’s a list of things I absolutely ought to take to heart next time I try one of these things again.
Maybe take on a topic that is slightly less massive! The panel’s time slot was an hour. I did not fully appreciate how vastly overstuffed my material was for such a duration. The corresponding PowerPoint presentation was 75 SLIDES, cut down from more than 90 when my girlfriend forced me to reckon with how long that made things. Less than a minute available per slide on average. That is beyond ridiculous.
I did ultimately manage—barely—to make the cut. But getting there involved some detrimental, counter-productive behavior (covered below), and there was also way less time for discussion with the audience than I would have liked.
Thank God that my girlfriend saw my work-in-progress beforehand. She ended up giving me plenty of suggestions that may very well have saved this undertaking from total disaster. It is ALWAYS a good thing to have someone else looking over one’s work and providing feedback.
Don’t be such a motormouth; take it slow. One of the panel attendees, bless their soul, actually told me at one point early on to take it easy because I was talking so goddamn much that my mouth went bone dry. Nervousness and feeling like I had to rush because of the mountain of stuff I hoped to cover in an hour is a deadly combo. It still amazes me how understanding everyone was of my struggles, because I was struggling so hard up there.
I’ve got to use the PowerPoint notes feature next time so that I’m much better prepared. I did not realize in PowerPoint 2013, literally until while I was preparing in the panel room, that on a multi-monitor setup (e.g. laptop screen + projector), the monitor that isn’t broadcasting the presentation will act as a presenter’s assistant. It shows whatever the next slide will be, has a timer for the duration of the presentation thus far, and even has a section that displays your notes for the current slide. These are EXTREMELY useful features that could seriously help me out, and thus ought to be used to fuller potential.
Break out of “education mode” and trust the incoming knowledge of the audience way more. I had been originally prepping my panel, practically out of academic/tutoring/TA-ing/technical work habit, under the mindset that explaining everything to the audience was a best practice. And that meant setting aside time for extensive plot summaries of the three Kino’s Journey stories I was analyzing. My girlfriend eventually convinced me to drop all of that.
She was completely right. Because a convention isn’t a school, and for this kind of series-specific panel, I could have safely assumed that almost everyone in the audience already knew about—and were likely fans of—Kino’s Journey, and would know way more than enough about it to understand what I was getting at without having to exhaustively explain myself. That is something worth leaning into right from the start.
Also, on a related note, stop it with the college-era last minute work ethic, dude. The sole benefit that I get from doing such a thing is the reserves of motivation activated by urgency from the fear of God implanted directly into my heart. It is not worth everything else that I give up by not making myself do the majority of the prep work in advance.
Frequent usage of pictures is a good, good thing! Talking about a largely visual medium like anime warrants a largely visual presentation. I think I did decently enough with incorporating them into my panel. Some of the best reactions from the audience came from using and referring to them while making my comparisons. Something to keep in mind for the future.
On a sidenote (spoilers, I guess), here’s one of my favorite sets of slides, having to do with the topic of last episodes in each adaptation.
I like to have fun here. It made me glad that everyone else also appreciated it.
Then there is the last, arguably most important takeaway of them all: I gotta have a little more faith in myself. I had so many problems, was so visibly nervous, and kept getting in my own way, yet everyone STILL liked what I had done even after all of that?! There is huge room for improvement, of course, but there is also reason to be encouraged. Maybe despite all those flaws, I had been doing something so very right? Maybe I really am cut out for doing this kind of thing after all?
Having now gone through this all the first time, I would absolutely do another one of these things again. All troubles aside, this was a whole lot of fun, and a great experience. Just gotta find a second great hook, and a good convention for it, and who knows? Perhaps I’ll be at it again!