Some time ago, I had a conversation with a friend about panels at conferences. My friend said something that made me think: “I have attended panels that were the best sessions at the conference- but some panels have been a total waste of time. In this era of political correctness can you have panels with an edge?”
Some comedians refuse to perform in college campuses, due to political correctness requirements- is PC destroying the fun? I do not want to believe that- being funny does not require offending people or their beliefs. A good panel can be inclusive and respectful while being engaging – and entertaining.
The best panels make you think, they open your eyes to see the aspects or perspectives you had not thought or taken into consideration. Insulting or making crude fun of someone does not make a good panel. Finnish language has a concept of myötähäpeä– which is Fremdschämen in German. This is about feeling embarrassment on behalf of someone else who does not understand being ashamed of something s/he says or does. A good panel does not create this second-hand embarrassment in the audience.
An engaging panel has a broad and topical subject that touches the lives of the large part of the audience. It handles the experiences of the panelists. Topics like: How can UX be more inclusive? What is the role of faith or spirituality in UX? Are paper prototypes still useful when we can create functional prototypes with the same effort?
Interesting panels have the right number of panelists: 5 +/- 1 panelists guarantee different experiences or viewpoints yet ensures that everyone can be heard. In addition to myötähäpeä, the monologues are the sure panel turnoffs- as are overly long presentations at the beginning of the panel. One slide and a few minutes is quite enough for a panelist introduction.
Good panels engage the audience. It is necessary for the panel moderator to open the conversation with a couple of questions. But half of the time should be open to the questions from the audience. A good moderator is needed as well: one that stops any panelist from rambling or going too far from the topic.
I look forward to seeing the panel proposals for the UXPA International 2020 conference. I hope to be awed by the topics and the ways my respected fellows in UX plan on creating the conversations of the lifetime! And even more- I want my friend to see that panels today, “in the era of PC”, can be engaging and entertaining!
If you have a great idea for a panel session we can’t wait to hear from you
Written by: Anne Joutsenvirta, UXPA International 2020 Panels Chair
UXPA International anti-harassment policy is available here