Panels and Caucuses 101

Who are you: Kiki Mustang & Lola Love
BurlyCon Job Title: Kiki: Caucus and Panels Coordinator, Lola: Director of Programming
How long have you volunteered for BurlyCon? Kiki: Two years, this is my first year as
Caucus and Panels Coordinator. Lola: 5 years
Location: Kiki: Seattle, WA, USA, Lola: Honolulu, HI

What is the difference between a panel and a caucus?
KM: My understanding is that a panel has a few experts on a topic discuss said topic to an
audience, sharing their insights and expertise. There should be a moderator to help keep time,
ensure everyone on the panel gets a chance to speak, and generally guide the conversation so
that it stays relevant and interesting. Sometimes the audience an ask questions or participate in
some way, although this is not required (that I can think of).
When I think of Caucus, I think of people coming together around a common experience or
framework that they use to walk through the world.  There’s mingling and sharing…a bit of
structured activities and a bit of free time.  A moderator or two is very helpful to break the ice,
bring people together, and encourage whatever conversations can be empowering, insightful,
and meaningful to that particular group.  There is less 'audience' like in a panel.
LL: A caucus is set up so that folks gather to meet and mingle based on a common experience.
It is loosely structured and created so that it provides a space for mingling, discussion, and
connecting with the group. In a caucus everyone is participating and everyone has opportunity
to create dialogue.
Panels are more structured and have a panel of speakers the team considers experts in the
topic. It is led by a moderator who guides the conversation by asking questions, keeping folks
on track and sometimes accepting questions from the audience.
We also hold Round tables which like panels, are led by a moderator. The difference is there is
not a panel and everyone is included in the discussion. The moderator keeps the conversation
focused much like panels.

Why is it important to offer these at BurlyCon?
KM: It helps build community.
LL: We often select panels, caucuses and round tables based on what we see happening in our
community. Panels are a great way to take conversations we see happening online and give
folks a chance to discuss them in person.  We also choose topics based on proposals. We know
the community is in need of a conversation when we receive multiple proposals for the same
panel which often happens. I’d say the goal of these is to promote dialogue, build community
and to educate.

How are the panelists chosen?
LL: A combination of proposals submitted, moderators selecting folks and the programming
team selecting folks. We always try to have diversity in our panels so we are getting multiple
perspectives.
KM: The panel moderator gives me a list of people they would like to solicit to be on the panel.  I
contact them, ask if they are willing and available, answer any questions they may have, then
either thank them for their time if they decline, or put them in touch with the moderator(s) if they
accept.

How are the caucus’ chosen?
LL: Many are suggested through our proposal application process. There are some that we
include every year because we think they are important (Newbie, 12 Step, POC, etc)

I see in my program that there is an Open caucus. What is that?
KM: Not sure, but I sure do want to snag one for Latinx Gente!!!
LL: The Programming team realizes we can’t think of everything so we created Open Caucuses
so that folks can self organize and have a space to meet that is private.

How do I sign-up to hold a caucus?
LL: Sign up at the registration desk. It is pretty easy! Just organize your group and then sign up.
We will add the caucus to our evening newsletter if we get the info in time.

How do I let attendees know about my caucus?
KM: Great question.  I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t use all platforms available to you!
LL: We encourage you to use Social Media. We have a BurlyCon Facebook group. If you plan
ahead we can add the caucus to the newsletter and possibly the app (EventXD) but we need to
know the day ahead.

Anything else you’d like us to know about panels and caucuses?
KM: From what I can tell from my newbie shoes, the BurlyCon programming team and BurlyCon
directors put in a metric ton of thought, care, attention, intention, strategy and hours into
curating the right balance of caucuses, panels, classes, breaks, events, and everything else that
is ‘happening’ at any given moment of the Con (within the logistic/reality constraints).  There
aren’t enough hours in the day to hold every caucus or panel or class, and it’s inevitable that
you will have to choose between many exciting possible events to attend at any given moment.
Please fill out those class evaluations and let us all know what you think and what you need and
what you appreciate!  It does get noticed and considered!  It really does help fuel the Con!
LL: We create these for YOU. We hope you will attend and then give us feedback on what you
liked and what you think we can do to improve. The programming team works year around and
our main goal is to create a space where people learn, connect and grow. Your feedback is
important so that we can create programming that you want. 🙂

Author: Shan de Leers

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