Session Chair Guide

So you’ve been given a chair assignment and have no idea what a session chair does?  We hope that this guide will help you out.

How do I know if I have a chair assignment, or How do I find out when am I chairing a session?

If you aren’t sure that you have been assigned a session to chair, you can check in the finalized program.  It is a PDF and you can search for your name, or look in the participant index at the end. The participant index is alphabetized by first name.

How were the chairs assigned?

In general, chairs were chosen by their interest in the topics being covered in particular sessions.  They will have presented or will be presenting on a similar topic, in other words.

What does a session chair do?

A session chair helps to maintain order in individual sessions.  Before the session, introduce yourself to the presenters and ask them if there is anything that they would like you to do in particular.  At the appointed starting time, introduce the session, usually by reading the title of the presentations and introducing the participants.  For panel sessions, you will usually only need to read one title, but check with your presenters.  For individual sessions that are grouped together in pairs or triplets, give the title of their presentation and then introduce the presenter(s).  Notify attendees that the presenters will be answering questions at the end of the session;  this is particularly important if there are multiple individual presentations in your session.

The presenters then take over, and you can sit back and enjoy the session.  You will need to watch the clock, however, to make sure that presentations are sticking to time limits (see the next question for more information about timing.)

How much time do sessions have?

Each session is 70 minutes long.  In general, presentations should take up 60 minutes with 10 minutes question and answer time.

Different types of sessions, however, have different timings.

Individual sessions are the most complicated, and timing depends on how many individual presentations there are.  In general, there are at least two individual presenters in a session, but most sessions are divided into three presentations. Time will need to be divided equally between the presenters.  A session with three presenters, therefore, would have twenty minute presentations.  A session with two individual presenters would be divided in half for 30 minutes each.  If a presenter finishes early, however, don’t panic:  there will be more time for discussion later.

Round tables are paired, so each round table session would have 30 minutes to hold their discussion.  Round tables are discussion-based, and you should ask your presenters what they would like you to do.  Most of the time, the presenters will handle questions and discussion, and you can sit back and watch the clock.   At the end of both round table discussions, you can help both groups field more questions from the audience.

Panel presentations are composed of people who pre-planned a whole session. Please clarify with them what they would like you to do in a session.  In general, however, you will just need to make sure that the group finishes at their allotted session time.

Should I let my presenters know how much time they have left?

Generally it is a good idea to let presenters–particularly individual presentation presenters–know when they have 5 minutes left so they can wrap up.  We will provide notification cards in each room that you may flash to the presenter when they have 5 minutes left, or when they need to move on.

What if someone is done with their allotted time but won’t stop presenting?

This is a very rare occurrence, but if it does happen, you may, as session chair, inform the presenter that the session must move on to another presentation.  Use your best judgment, however, as there is some flexibility of timing built into the sessions.

What if I am listed as chair of my own session?

The conference co-chairs assigned session chairs to each session, but on occasion we had chairs drop out of the conference altogether.  This left for some gaps that we could realistically only fill by giving chair duties to someone already in the room.  We appreciate that it can be difficult to wear two hats in a session.  We suggest that you share out the chairing duties of watching them time among all participants then.

What if the chair listed in my session doesn’t show up?

Chairs missing a session does happen, unfortunately.  As with being your own chair, you will need to take on the responsibility of being the chair.  If you have co-presenters or other people presenting during your session, it is best to work it out with them.

What if the projector or other technology isn’t working?

There will be information about contacting technical support at the projector tables.

What if someone wants a projector but there isn’t one in the room?

This is a tough one, as the conference co-chairs made every effort to make sure that people who wanted technology were accommodated accordingly.  Technology expenses, however, made it impossible for every room to be equipped with a projector.  If someone requested a projector on their original proposal, or informed the co-chairs back in the programming stage of the conference, then they were accommodated.  It is impossible on the day of the conference to provide projectors in non-tech rooms.  Rooms with a projector, by the way, are denoted by a asterisk (*) in the program.