Diverse Panels at ASJA
Last week I spent several days in New York City at the American Society of Journalists and Author meetings. One of the hallmarks of our Saturday conference is the various workshops (which are now available in an audio format). If you’ve never been to this particular conference or listened to any of the tapes I recommend it. Why? They are built on a different format and with a higher caliber of presenter than most conferences. At your usual writer’s conference, you listen to one presenter for the entire hour. These workshops are built in panels with multiple participants—and designed in this fashion from the beginning. Last Saturday the Society had 25 different panels.
I’ve moderated a number of these sessions over the years and one of the “perks” for the moderator is the opportunity to construct your particular panel and have a deeper and ongoing relationship with your various panel members. For example in my case for my panel on contracts 101, I have a relationship with three lawyers who work in publishing matters and another literary agent. Each panel includes an ASJA member who moderates. Then another one of the panelists represents the “writer” perspective and is also an ASJA member. Each panel has four presenters. The other three members are often editors or literary agents or other people involved in the publishing community. The presenters depend on the particular topic.
Usually each conference includes a panel on Women’s Magazines and what they want. Here’s the construction of this particular panel:
Moderator: Leslie Levine, ASJA, writer, speaker, writing coach; author, Will This Place Ever Feel Like Home?, Ice Cream for Breakfast, and Wish It, Dream It, Do It. Contributor New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Woman's Day.
Madonna Behen, health director, Woman's Day.
Jennifer Braunschweiger, articles editor, Good Housekeeping.
Janine Latus, ASJA, contributor O magazine, More, Woman's Day, Family Circle, All You, Parents, www.WomensWallStreet.com.
Marty Munson, health editor, Marie Claire.
The circulation of the publications alone accounts for millions of subscribers in this particular panel and what they presented. It was a single hour of the conference. Typically each panelist makes a five to ten minute presentation (with specific directions from their moderator) on a different aspect of the topic. Then the remainder of the hour workshop is a question and answer format. Some participants are eager for this give and take session portion of the hour. As a moderator, I know it can be a bit chaotic. You call on someone in the back of the room and they have a three part question which you try and read into the tape recording. At the suggestion of another ASJA member, I tried a different system—which worked great. When I gave the introduction to my panel, I also passed out cards to the audience and encouraged them to write down their various questions. We collected the cards after the last speaker and I began asking questions from these cards. Each one was read into the microphone (no huge gaps in the tape while you listen to the question in the audience then repeat it for the tape). I had more questions than could possibly be covered—and the audience had an opportunity to interact with the various panelists.
After each session, there is a 20 minute “break” where the audience changes workshops. When you have 650 people in the halls of a hotel, it’s pretty chaotic but works. When the panel concludes, audience members swarm to the front to have a few seconds of interaction with a particular panelist. It gives you the chance to exchange business cards and the hope of connecting at a later date. You can’t have that face to face time through listening to the tapes. You have to get to this conference. The diversity alone is amazing—and the instruction and teaching is some of the best in the country. I’ve just given a taste of it today.