Before AWP, I wrote a post about how panels and conference talks in general often don't deliver what they promise, either because of misleading abstracts or poor organization. I said that I would see how the two panels on my schedule that I thought would be the most likely to mislead would go.
I'm pleased to report that those two panels did exactly what was promised in a well-organized and helpful way. In fact, the most disappointing panel I attended was one of the so-called "safe" panels--essentially a how-to on a certain topic that I thought would unearth more useful tips.
I don't want to call anyone out, but know that if you are disappointed in a panel, it's probably not your fault. After all, it's your time and money at stake! Like any public talks, panels must keep the audience's attention and offer information and relatable conversation.
Panels are inherently inefficient forms of information conveyance because they stress the human factor. I do wish that AWP's talks varied in format, because there are some topics that would do better with one or two presenters rather than a full panel. But I doubt that's going to change.
Instead, let me offer some helpful notes to keep in mind when running, evaluating, or judging panels: