Conventions often look for new panels that provide an experience that will be both popular and unique. In this aspect, my panel, Seeking Sempai* was a success. Ultimately though, this panel was poorly thought out for multiple reasons. I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s start at what it was supposed to be.
This panel was supposed to be speed dating for friends. This was done, partially because speed dating at conventions never has enough women in order to actually happen.
The attendees were to be split up into 2 groups by age, kohai (younger) and sempai (older). The normal rules of speed dating were supposed to apply, however I had no tables and limited space. I had name badges, pens, note cards for writing down names, and the expectation of only 12 people showing.
My largest fears were that a bunch of 14 year olds were going to be going over to creepy 40 year olds. Maybe someone walks off with a child, I don’t know.. everyone told me that this was a very bad idea, and while I understood their concerns… I believed in humanity. So what actually happened?
Mass Chaos! The ages were split, but I abandoned rounds immediately, and allowed the kohai to mingle with the senpai at their leisure. There were a lot of people. during this time, the kohai barely mingled with their senpai, and the senpai really had no interest in mingling with the teenagers. Except for one amazing teen, but I will get into that in just a second.
The stats for this panel were very interesting. Not counting the audience, there were 34 people ranging from the ages 12-26. There were 20 people over the age of 18, and only 14 people under 18. The largest age represented was 19 with 9 people, seconded by 20, with 5 people. There was only one 12 year old.
When it came time to pick a winner, there was one thing that became apparent… the entire point of the game was lost on everyone. They were supposed to pick their elder or younger, because the sempai has a lot to offer knowledge wise to the younger kohai, who this might be their first second or third convention ever. What happened? almost everyone voted for the 17 year old going by the name of ‘Smith,’ regardless of their age bracket. What did Smith put down, instead of the 3 names? EVERYONE!
Even if the entire panel went flawless, and it surely did not due to this being my first time running this panel, this made it impossible to actually tally anything. I laughingly told everyone that I hated everyone, and the panel ended a little early due to people needing to leave early too.
What will be different NEXT time? I will most likely break this into 2 or three panels. One will be an 18 and under meet and greet, while the other will be an 18+ panel. The name badges will have however many conventions attended on the badge as opposed to splitting people up into ages, and it will mostly be a meet and greet with a popularity contest at the end.
Louisianime did not post descriptions of panels in their program, so without that, it is really strange that this panel was as successful as it was. People, apparently, came to it to either a: find out what it was, or b: because it had the word Senpai in it. Wow!
So, when everything is all said and done, I just have to ask one question: Who is ready for next time?
*Even misspelled, the word Senpai attracts crowds.