Thursday, May 19, 2016

Why Do Most Book Panels Bore Us?

While attending Book Expo in Chicago, the annual gathering of the book industry, there were dozens of panel presentations on a variety of topics, including ones on publicity, sales, audiobooks, book reviews, getting published, and all of the topics you’d expect workshops on.  What I didn’t expect was how boring, ordinary, and repetitive these presentations would be.  It shouldn’t be that way, especially for an industry filled with communicators.

Panels should be interesting, informative, and inspiring.  They should not merely be avenues for the panelists to promote their company or book.  But too many of the panels self-promote. The panelists has long introductions, hyping their backgrounds.  Then, when each panelist speaks, he finds a way to continue referencing his successes.  I can appreciate a little self-promotion, but it’s gotten out of hand.

Then comes the actual advice or insights that are offered.  Rarely do panelists challenge each other or engage in a spirited debate.  They remain too respectful of one another to the point they just mirror each other and regurgitate obvious things.  No one is giving out trade secrets on these panels. They know more than they give, and they spend too much time stating the basics and not acknowledging that even novices are getting savvy and reading up on things.  Panels need to raise it a notch.

The panels genuinely lack diversity and look homogenous.  Though the industry skews white, educated, and female, the panelists are 100% white.  If we want a progressive panel of ideas and voices, it begins with staffing panels with different faces.

Maybe panels stink because there simply is not enough time to properly tackle what needs to be stated on a topic.  A panel of four in the course of 50 minutes can only say so much.  Some of it is Q&A, so really no one panelist may get to share his or her wisdom for more than 10 minutes. If a panelist has 20 years of experience, she gets to discuss for 30 seconds what she has learned for each year of experience.

Another obstacle of panels is they are agenda-driven. You’d think the agenda is to share useful information and to think like the audience and meet its needs. Instead, as I mentioned earlier, the panelists want to sell their services, book, or company, so their answers reflect things that will lure you in.  They will say or do anything necessary to leave you with a positive impression about them.

A lot of the panels I attended provided no handouts.  Now granted, that means we were spared getting a physical advertisement, but we were also deprived of receiving useful resources or pieces of information that could conceivably help the attendees.

I think a panel, to mix things up, can change things by asking the audience what they want to know. The attendees may not even know what they want to know what they need to know or ask, but this would help the panelists zero in on a topic or two or three.  They need to really delve into an area and cover it beyond the beginner level approach. It’s easy to feed general information to people, but it takes someone exceptional to take this to the next level and speak to attendees at a higher level.

I don’t advocate not attending conventions, seminars or workshops, but I do warn that they are in need of stepping it up.  The experts need to go beyond showcasing their brands and fulfill the promise a workshop holds – to convey important ideas and facts and to help those who come to them in search of answers. Otherwise, it’s a snooze fest and that helps no one but the self-promoting panelists.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2016

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