5 ways to make the most of a boring panel

Portrait of a tired young business man bored during meeting

(MoneyWatch) I love conferences. They're a great opportunity to meet people. Of course, part of conference culture is panels -- and here we have a bit of a problem, because even at a great conference, panels can be uneven. Sometimes the chemistry is off, sometimes the topic doesn't work, and sometimes the panelists are less interested in imparting useful information than in telling stories about their own lives that aren't applicable to anyone else.

So what do you do if you wind up in a boring panel? Here are 5 ideas.

1. Leave. This is the easiest approach. Sit near the door or stand in the back and you'll be able to slip out and find a more interesting panel -- or just talk to people in the hallway, which might be a better approach.

2. Tweet. Posting tweets with a conference hash tag will probably land you a few new followers who are following the feed. Just because it's a boring panel doesn't mean there won't be 3 statements you can tweet, and getting 15 new followers could take an hour of your life by itself.

3. Strategize. Take this time to go through a list of conference speakers and attendees to figure out who you need to meet. Look up people's websites so you'll have something reasonable and specific to say -- because everyone loves thinking that other people find them fascinating.

4. Catch up on the work you'd otherwise have to do back at the office. I've written blog posts and articles during panels. I'm sure you've answered emails. An hour gives you a chance to get through half the backlog.

5. Google the people around you. Hopefully they're wearing their name badges. Wouldn't it be great to find out that the person in front of you works at the company you've been dying to find a contact at? He's bored too. You can commiserate together.

What do you do when you find yourself in a boring panel?