How to Find Panel Participants

Now that conferences have started posting Call for Papers for the next round of conferences, it’s time to think about putting together panels. Here are fifteen ways to find panel participants – I promise you know more people than you think!

1. Tap your fellowship community. Look around at the individuals that are working in the same archives and research centers. Look at the other fellowship recipients or recipients in previous years. Look at the fellow rosters at big libraries and archives in your field, even if you don’t have a fellowship.

2. Your academic family: Consider your advisor’s previous students or students that have come after you.

3. Former students from your program that are now in positions elsewhere.

4. Read your scholarly journals for work that aligns with yours. Don’t forget the book reviews, both the author of the review and the author of the book!

5. Ask your advisor for recommendations and introductions.

6. Ask other graduate students/early career mentors for recommendations

7. If someone says no, ask them if they have anyone else that they could recommend

8. Twitter is the freaking best for this process. You can learn about people or ask if anyone is interested. Use the #twitterstorian hashtag.

9. Look at past conference programs to see what people have been working on and who likes to go to the conference.

10. Look at the program committee from previous years. Some conferences have the rule that the program committee can’t be on a panel while serving, so maybe they are eager to be back at it.

11. Listen to history podcasts and look through their list of guests. A few recommendations: Ben Franklin’s World, Historically Thinking, New Books in History, BackStory, Past Present, and Conversations at the Washington Library, just to name a few.

12. Databases: Women Also Know History is just one example, but they exist for lots of fields. Many professional organizations also have a list of their members.

13. Pick up your favorite recent books and look at the acknowledgements section.

14. Who has written recent posts for your favorite history blogs? A few examples: the Junto, Age of Revolutions, the Panorama (JER), Process (OAH), Perspectives on History (AHA), Nursing Cleo, and Borealia, just to name a few.

15. CSPAN has been super active lately at conferences—recording panels, classes, and interviews. Check out their resources for ideas.


1. Don’t have people from the same program (for example, you and your advisor, multiple grad students still in a department). Usually, call for papers prohibit this situation, but even if they don’t, it’s frowned upon.

2. Don’t have a panel of all men. If possible, also go for some age, race, institutional diversity, etc.

3. Don’t be afraid to cold-email people, even senior people! Be polite about it, tell them why you think they’d be a great fit and how you learned about their work. But don’t be afraid. It’s always nice to be considered, even if they can’t say yes for one reason or another. I used to be terrified to cold email people and now I realize that when someone asks me, it means I don’t have to do the work of putting together a panel myself!

Check back on Friday for my final post in this conference series on how to create a panel proposal that will be sure to grab the committee’s attention!

If you missed the previous posts in this series, see How to Create a Great Roundtable and Let’s Get Rid of Paper Panels. Download my full conference guide here. For early access to resources, posts, stories, and more, sign up for my Spot of Parchment.

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