I’ve written about this before, but since I’m wedged in with 400 others at the Beyond Broadcast conference, it’s worth repeating. After publishing hundreds of conference sessions over the past four years, we continue to see that the popularity (and quality) of sessions is inversely proportional to the number of speakers. The best are always the inspirational single-speaker sessions such as Henry Jenkins’ keynote here. At the other extreme are the panels: rarely good, such as the Participatory Culture discussion during which Dave (hi, Dave), Doc, David I and others are trying to stay awake.
The problems are threefold. First, conference producers tend to staff panels using speakers they don’t think are strong enough to justify solo sessions. Second, some producers use panel-slot invitations as payback/thanks for favors. Third, there just isn’t enough time. I’ve flown from one coast to the other, burning up the better part of three days, to be one of five speakers on a one-hour panel. How much value can I transfer in just 12 minutes?
Panels *can* be good if there’s a good moderator and there’s real discussion between the panelists, but all too often panels are nothing more than an assembly of too-short individual presentations.