Convention Attendance Rules of Etiquette

Rules of Etiquette, Lesson Three

As convention season is underway, this rule may be a timely one to share. Although it was originally intended for the theatre, I think it applies to panels as well.


It is rude to whisper or talk during a performance. It is discourteous to the performers, and annoying to those of the audience around you, who desire to enjoy the entertainment.


Personally, I also consider texting and tweeting during a panel to be discourteous and distracting to both audience seated behind you and to those on the panel, with three exceptions.

  • Tweeting that you are in a panel, giving the name of it, and its location is a benefit to the panelists, unless done repeatedly.
  • Tweeting a photo from the panel can also be beneficial, unless done repeatedly.
  • If you plan on “live tweeting” as some do from the panel, this too can be beneficial to the panelists as it can bring others to the panel or serve as a nice touch afterward for the panelists to see what resonated. I would suggest not sitting in the front rows, however. The panelists, if like me, tend to feed off of the energy of the audience.

In addition, I don’t think it serves anyone if an audience member takes over the conversation during a panel. Meaning, unless questions are requested, you should just listen. If you have a question or opinion, raise your hand at the appropriate time and make what you say concise. Remember, the rest of the audience came to share in the information from the panelists, and it can easily turn into a situation where the panelists are unable to continue the conversation because of an audience member with a firmly held opinion that is being voiced.

Again, these are my rules as I’ve developed them over the years and other panelists may feel completely different.

Opinions from panelists? Opinions from audience members?

Many thanks for the read. I look forward to seeing if there are comments on this one.

4 replies on “Rules of Etiquette, Lesson Three”

This seems pretty reasonable and well though out. And a reminder is good to have as we move into Con season. I know that at times my enthusiasm for a subject will get the best of me and I have to remind myself to give others time for their questions and comments before raising my hand.

But I am also wondering if you have thoughts about panelists who monitor twitter during the panel to see if there are thoughts about the panel being tweeted but not spoken. I have seen this done on some panels. Creative use of technology, or a panelist not paying sufficient attention to the discussion?


As a panel attendee as well as occasional panel member, I find it somewhat rude to monitor twitter, take phone calls or check for texts/emails while on a panel. Yes, it is a great way to pimp yourself while on a panel to a larger audience than is in the room. However, I believe that the people that spent hard earned money and chose my panel to attend deserve my full attention.

I’ve seen some panelists ask for questions from their twitter followers, but I personally think this is better done before the panel starts and that it be made a part of the panelists talking points for their panel.

Again, these are my personal opinions, but I try to (and sometimes fail at) fully interacting with people in the same meat space as I am. I consider it an honor to be on a panel and am humbled when asked, so I give the people in the room my full attention.

Thanks for the read and the comment!

With all due deference to the gentlewoman from the great state of Virginia, I can’t say that I concur with everything shared here. I have never been a panelist, so all of my conclusions and experiences are drawn from the other side of the table. Take that for what its worth. I don’t think that Twitter can be placed on the same par as talking or even whispering during a theatrical performance – a sore subject for my spouse, who is vocationally involved with the theater. I do agree that those opting to use Twitter should be discreet. Sit toward the back. Make sure device isn’t pinging away. Common sense stuff.

Truthfully, I feel that Twitter is a great way to share information at a convention. Above and beyond the, ‘Who’s going to lunch at 12:30 ?’ hive mind conversations, there’s a lot of good info to be had. As stated, I believe that my tweets can draw others into a panel I am enjoying. Likewise, if I am not getting a great deal of value out of the panel I am in, someone else’s tweets can help me to make the most of my time at the convention.

I can certainly appreciate what a front and center ‘twit’ can do to a panelist(or group of panelists). Why go to a panel to take up a choice spot and essentially ignore the content being offered ? THAT SAID, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with sharing information on the panel via Twitter. It may draw local folks into the physical space thus enhancing any debate or conversation. It may also help others unable to attend to seek out information that they may not otherwise have been privy to. Finally, as Doc said, Twitter may actually help shape the discussion since, lets face it, some panelists are likely monitoring their own tweet streams to see what the audience(locally, or otherwise) has to say.

I will WHOLEHEARTEDLY concur that monopolizing a conversation at a con is just flat out rude. When a panel is only forty-five to fifty minutes long, and someone claims the ten minutes set aside for discussion as their own forum… That, most certainly is uncalled for. As a con-goer I appreciate all of the folks who give of their time to educate and inspire those of us in the audience.

Doug, Gentlewoman? You flatterer, you!

And I actually don’t think we disagree on the potential of tweets bringing people to panels. That’s what I meant when I said that a tweet could be beneficial to the panelists. And as I said in my response to Doc’s comment I agree that Twitter-folk can help shape the discussion. I do think it behooves the panelist to do this before the panel starts, as part of their preparations for it.

And when I see a panelist reach for their cell phone, I have a hard time thinking they are interested in the panel and then have trouble retaining my own interest. The people that put down their money and traveled to the con and chose that panel to attend deserve all the attention possible.

In addition, having been on panels when Ddog/Rob has tweeted favorite bits from my panel I can say that I greatly enjoy it. But he has the good manners to be subtle and courteous in the way he does it. Some are not.

I’ll add that if there is sewing/knitting/work on laptop/netbook being done by a panel attendee, I also believe they should show respect to the audience behind them and sit in the back. It is distracting to both panelists and audience if there is activity between them and what they are watching.

Again, my personal opinion.

Thanks so much for the read and the thoughtful comment, Doug. Can’t wait to see you next month!

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