I was nervous to present my first panel at Fanime 2022 as part of the J-fashion department. I’d never done a panel before, and I was doing this one solo. My “Lolita 101: Styling Skirts” panel was at 10:00 AM, and I was afraid no one would show up that early in the morning. I’d spent the preceding weeks preparing a deck with photo examples of skirts and spent the night before practicing in my hotel room. I felt as prepared as I could have possibly been.
When I checked in with the j-fashion convention staff about 20 minutes before my panel, they apologetically told me that the projector wasn’t working. They’d called the hotel equipment manager but they had no idea when it would get resolved. My stomach dropped. Though I was wearing a skirt coordinate, it would be extremely difficult to do my panel without my deck.
The panel room was laid out about how you’d expect: a raised table for presenters in the front with microphones, a (useless) projector on a dolly, and an (equally useless) screen beside the presenters tables. There were seats throughout the room for guests to listen to the panel. Quickly, I started to go through my options. I had my small Chromebook with my deck on it, I had a lot of knowledge, and thanks to 4 years of Model United Nations in high school, I had the supreme ability to make up speeches on the fly. I swallowed my anxiety and waited for guests to arrive.
The show must go on
As I suspected, the panel had only about 5-6 guests when my start time rolled around. As it started, I stepped off the raised presenter table and into the audience seating with my guests. I explained the technical difficulties, and asked them to scoot in close so they could see my small Chromebook screen as I clicked through my deck. This was not the way that I envisioned my panel going (I couldn’t see my notes while I was showing off my deck to the audience), so I stumbled over the slides I’d prepared.
Then something funny happened. The intimate group of guests grew, slowly, and it included some lolitas. I started using my coordinate and their coordinates to demonstrate the styling tips I was recommending. Because the panel had started so conversationally, audience members felt extremely comfortable asking questions, prompting me to go over information I’d planned (but forgotten without my notes) to cover in my slides. Their prompting reminded me of the rhythm of my panel, and how each topic flowed into the next.
Saved by the bell (shaped petticoat)
The heroic j-fashion staff was also quietly working in the background, eventually wheeling in a whole new projector and dolly around 20 minutes into my panel. With a working projector, I could show the examples for skirt styling that I’d carefully collected. The audience continued to filter in and grow, so even though I was covering information that I’d already mentioned, more people got to absorb it.
As I finished the planned slides in my deck, I had about 10 minutes left for questions. Since I’d advertised my panel as a “lolita 101” panel, many audience members used the time to ask questions about color coordinating, resources for making lolita clothing, where to find shoes, and what petticoat is best for each style. Though these were not topics I’d planned to talk about, my panel made realize how much knowledge I had.
I talked until the j-fashion staff shooed us out of the room to get ready for the next panel. My heart was pounding as I packed up my Chromebook. When I looked up, there were a handful of people from my audience who had additional questions or just wanted to say how much they appreciated my panel. I was absolutely floored.
While it would have been amazing if everything had gone smoothly, I now have the confidence that I can handle just about any kind of setback when presenting.