How to join a cosplay panel!
You’ve seen them at Anime or comic conventions – discussion panels! Not only are they incredibly fun to attend but you get some interesting discourse, depending on the topic. And who doesn’t love panels that relate to cosplay? You get to learn a lot about cosplaying, while also taking part in the joys and struggles of being a cosplayer.
But what if you yourself want to take part in a cosplay panel? What if you want to be the one hosting it? Is it easy or hard to do? What are some things you should know? That’s what we’ll be covering!
In this post, I’ll give you 10 things you need to know on how to join a cosplay panel. These come from my experiences, so you’re getting some real good advice from someone who has hosted panels.
Without further ado, let’s get started!
1. You need to sign up EARLY
The first thing you should definitely know is that when it comes to hosting a cosplay panel at a convention, you need to apply really early. Deciding on hosting a cosplay panel at the last minute probably won’t work. Generally speaking, you’ll need to apply for a cosplay panel months in advance before the convention takes place.
For some smaller conventions, you may be able to get away with applying on short notice. But larger conventions? No way! There are too many things going on for a big convention, so they will coordinate and schedule panels far in advance.
(For more info on the biggest conventions in the U.S., click here)
While you can always host your cosplay panel at any conventions, if there’s a particular convention you specifically want to host your panel at, you should definitely plan in advance.
2. Decide on potential cosplay panel ideas you may have
Once you have an idea where you’d like to host a cosplay panel, then it’s time to decide which one you’d like to do.
I highly recommend having more than just one idea for a cosplay panel in mind. That’s because your first panel idea may not get approved by the convention (more on this later). So if your first idea gets rejected, it’s good to have another panel as a backup that you can do.
Here are some cosplay panels for you if you need some ideas:
- Something related to a cosplay tutorial topic (e.g. Worbla, props, LED lights)
- Cosplayer topics such as social media, making money, how to improve your cosplay, convention tips
- Cosplay photography tutorials (e.g. lighting, posing, equipment)
- Non-cosplay topics like fandom discussions (Dragonball Z, Pokémon, Super Smash Bros)
- General topics (society, relationship advice, money tips)
I’d say once you have at least 3-5 cosplay panel ideas in mind, then you’re good to move onto the next step:
3. Pitch your panel ideas to the convention
Now it’s time to send your ideas to the convention. Most of the time, this simply involves pitching your ideas using a contact form on the website, or emailing them directly. Again, make sure you do this as soon as possible, because panels need to be submitted and approved months in advance.
Once you send your ideas, you may not hear from the convention for a while. But usually, the convention will give you a timeline of:
- When the deadline is to submit panel ideas
- When to expect to hear back from them
- The date when the convention schedule is published and the times for every panel
If you don’t hear anything back from the expected date, then be sure to send a follow-up email to confirm.
4. If your panel(s) get approved
If your panel ideas get approved by the convention, then congratulations! You’ll get the honor of helping out the convention and providing congoers with a pleasurable experience.
Generally speaking, you can expect to be in touch with the convention regarding the following:
- Date and time of your panel. The convention will give you available times during the event of when you can host the panel. They will be accompanying and try to arrange a time that works for you. For example, you probably wouldn’t want to host a panel during an activity you want to see, like a Masquerade or a Guest Q&A.
- Who you’ll be hosting the panel with. Depending on the panel you’re hosting, you may or may not be sharing the panel with other people, especially if you don’t have another person with you. If it’s something specialized such as cosplay tutorials, you’ll likely be hosting the panel on your own. But if it’s a popular fandom that people love talking about, you’ll likely be sharing that panel with others.
- What materials you may need. If you need a video or projector for your panel, then you should let the staff know. It’s up to you if you want to use, but I highly recommend using a projector if you are planning to teach or present something for cosplay.
5. If your cosplay panel didn’t get approved
It happens to the best of us. We submit our panel ideas, and they get turned down. Don’t take it personally though; there could be many reasons why the convention staff (or whomever is in charge of the panels) decided to not approve your ideas.
Some various reasons:
- Too obscure. An example would be something like “80s Anime cosplay ideas.” Maybe there’s some interest in that, but the convention decided their target demographic would not enjoy it
- Too offensive or sensitive. Topics regarding race or lightening or darkening your skin for cosplay, that probably wouldn’t get approved.
- Already being done. Let’s say you wanted to do a panel about cosplay photography lighting. But someone else already has a panel about cosplay photography in general. The convention staff will likely only approve one of those panels, in order to allow others to have a chance to host their panels.
So don’t get discouraged when your panel doesn’t get through. It’s happened to me as well! You can always save your panel idea for a different convention.
6. You can always join a panel too
If none of your panel ideas get approved, or the convention has no more room for panels, then another thing you can do is simply join an existing panel and help others. That way, you can still be a part of the convention and participate in a panel.
When this is the case, you can pick and choose which panels you want to help out with. Again, conventions are always in need of assistance, so you’ll have many panels to choose from.
7. Bring friends along with you
When it comes to hosting cosplay panels, you might feel nervous speaking to a bunch of people by yourself. I sometimes feel that way. The best thing you can do is bring a friend with you to help host the panel. It makes a world of difference having a friend be with you; the panel will feel less of a public speaking event and more of a conversation between you and the attendees.
So if it’s possible, try bringing a friend with you. It makes hosting a panel far more enjoyable!
8. The benefits of hosting a cosplay panel
You might think that hosting a cosplay panel is a lot of work for nothing. While it may not be easy to host a panel at a convention, there are definitely a lot of benefits! Here are just a few, based on my experiences:
- Fun discussions about your specific topic. The main reason why you’d want to host a panel. If you’re passionate about a cosplay topic and want to share your knowledge or opinion to a bunch of people, then a cosplay panel at a convention is the perfect occasion to do so.
- Social and presentation skills. During the panel, you get to converse with others who are into the same topic. You’ll get to flex your social skills muscle and also learn about others. You also get some practice with your presentation skills as well, because you’ll be speaking to others. It’ll be going to a Toastmasters session, although not as intricate.
- Learning experience. Not only do you get to teach or inform others about cosplay, but you’ll likely learn a bunch of stuff from the audience as well. It’s why panels are so wonderful; it’s an open discussion where everyone can contribute and learn from each other.
- Networking opportunities. Another nice thing about panels is that opportunity to meet others. I’ve met some really cool people at panels I hosted, as well as panels I’ve watched as an attendee. If you want to meet others who are into the same topic and hobby as you, then hosting a panel is a great opportunity to do so.
9. The more panels you do, the better the reward
This shouldn’t be the main reason why you want to host a cosplay panel. But because you’re helping out with the convention, you do get some rewards and perks for hosting a panel.
Some of the perks you may get for hosting cosplay panels: free convention passes, free merchandise, access to areas of the convention venue not open to the public and even sometimes a free hotel room with others!
You get to talk about cosplay stuff, and you get rewarded for it! Isn’t that great?
10. Show up early for your panel room
Last but not least, you should try to show up to your panel room as early as possible. So if your panel is scheduled to take place at 2 pm, then try to arrive at your panel room around 1:30 pm.
You’ll want to be ready to go when it’s time to host your panel. And a lot of things can come up that can delay your panel, including:
- Trying to reach your panel room at a crowded convention. It can take a long time with all the people and the interruptions.
- The previous panelists taking too long to clean up. I’ve had this happen where the panelists ahead of me took so long to clean up, they ate into my own panel time. Fortunately, many conventions require the previous panel to finish up 5 minutes beforehand, to allow people to leave and let the next panel setup (e.g. panel ahead of you must finish by 1:55 pm so that the audience can leave and allow you to setup your panel at 2 pm)
- Technical difficulties. Sometimes the projector or laptop is not working for you. So you’ll want to call for assistance as soon as possible.
Therefore, you’ll want to get to your panel room early. That way, you can deal with any potential issues that may arise.
Bonus: record your panel
If you have a friend that’s attending your panel, I recommend you ask them if they can record your panel session. You never know, it may come in handy one day!
To summarize, here are the 10 things you need to know on how to host a cosplay panel:
- You need to sign up EARLY
- Decide on potential cosplay panel ideas you may have
- Pitch your panel ideas to the convention
- If your panel(s) get approved
- If your cosplay panel didn’t get approved
- You can always join a panel too
- Bring friends along with you
- The benefits of hosting a cosplay panel
- The more panels you do, the better the reward
- Show up early for your panel room
And there you have it; 10 things to know when hosting a cosplay panel. I hope you found this guide helpful!
What cosplay panel are you planning to host? Let me know in the comments below!
My name is Roger Senpai. I’m a cosplayer that’s been in the community for well over a decade now. I’ve traveled all over the world to Anime and Comic conventions and hosted my own cosplay events. Now I’m writing articles for new and experienced cosplayers like you to help inspire, save you money and improve your cosplays!