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.

TutorCon Teaser

by the TutorCon/Tutor Reception Committee (Bethany Bibb, Jarrod Barben, John Ramirez, Jordin Hartley, Nic Contreras, and Sarah Abraham)

Since tutoring is itself a social interaction, no conference would be complete without some social time for tutors.   Join us Friday, Nov. 6, 6-8pm for TutorCon–tutor-only event with fun and games and good company.

Here’s a taste of what we have in store, so sharpen your wits and show off your fun side!

Point of Origin with Sarah Abraham

Point of Origin is a mapping activity where participants take a pin and place it on a map to indicate where in the world they come from.  Proposals were accepted from all over the world, and we wanted to have a visual depiction of how diverse the world of writing centers is.

The Ultimate PIXperience:  A Pictionary Odyssey with Jarrod Barben

A Pictionary-ish powerhouse for the ages. Draw deep. Draw together.

Story (Col)laboratory with Jordin Hartley

Story (Col)laboratory is a fun activity during which stories will be compiled in a line-by-line fashion on an over-sized notebook by attendees of TutorCon. Each attendee will contribute one to two sentences to the story in order to receive a sticker for the activity.  The theme of the story will be determined by drawing cards with either one or two sentences that will start and set a context for the rest of the story or by drawing vocabulary words to use.  We are sure to emerge with some very interesting stories created exclusively by our TutorCon attendees!

Poet’s Corner with Nic Contreras

We’ll be using the line-by-line method to create large poems out of separate people’s lines.  One of the themes will be “I Am From…”–giving tutors the opportunity to write the literal, figurative, symbolic, or metaphorical places they come from and to think about how we became the people we are today, what our values are, and who or what experiences have shaped us.  The other theme will be “Writing Is…”–giving us an opportunity to think about how writing works and what it means to us.

Reading and Raffle with John Ramirez

We’ll be reading stories and poems from Story (Col)laboratory and Poet’s Corner and having a raffle with some great prizes!


TutorCon is coming.  Are you game?






How do I get my Poster to the Conference?

On the Writing Center listserv WCENTER, NCTPW2015 presenter Erin Pastore from Merrimack College asked the following  question:

I am very excited to be part of the poster sessions this year at NCPTW with two of my undergraduate writing consultants.

But, having never presented a poster before, we are unsure of the best means of getting it to Salt Lake from Massachusetts.

What would veteran poster presenters suggest? Any pitfalls of either option we should know about?

Veteran presenter Bill McAuley, from the University of Nevada, Reno replied

If it’s a physical poster, I would ship it to yourself at the hotel in a hard tube, arriving before you do, just in case. Make sure that the hotel knows you are doing so and that they have apparatus to receive and keep it for you. USPS and UPS are both reliable and cheap. Fed Ex is the former but less so the latter, at least by comparison and in my experience. Finally, all of those years in air freight come to some use . . .

And Dawn Fels, of the University of Pittsburgh added

I would add that you should phone the hotel to be sure that they don’t charge you  or the conference storage fees.

Thanks to Bill & Dawn for their excellent advice.

Presentation Guide

by Chris LeCluyse
NCPTW 2015 Co-Chair

This guide describes each of the different kinds of presentations scheduled for NCPTW 2015 and provides some pointers to keep in mind as you prepare for the conference. If you have additional questions about the conference, see this very web site, or e-mail

General Logistics

Session Chairs

Each session will be introduced and timed by an assigned chairperson. The chair should become familiar with the presentations beforehand and orient audience members by letting them know about the theme of the session. Chairs will also time presentations and let presenters know as they reach the end of their allotted block. See the descriptions of various formats below for how long each has been allotted.


If you have requested a digital projector in your proposal and paid the technology fee, you will be placed in a room with a digital projector and a screen.  The Little America Hotel does provide technical support, and information on how to contact technical support will be in the conference program.  Each projector will have a pair of speakers, and  a wired internet connection.


If you wish to provide copies for your session attendees, we suggest at least 25.  It is difficult to predict how many people will attend sessions, however, so you may have too many or too few.  The Little America does offer copying services  at $.25 per page for black and white, or $.75 per page for color. 

Presentation Formats

Individual and Panel Presentations

Individual presentations generally consist of three separate presentations of fifteen to twenty minutes apiece, followed by up to 10 minutes for discussion, questions, and answers at the end of all presentations. Individual presentations were submitted separately and combined by the conference organizers according to their topics.  In some cases, only two presentations have been scheduled for a particular session according to their topics and technology needs.  You should check to see who you are paired with in order to determine the amount of time you will be allowed.  If your individual presentation has more than one presenter, you only be allocated the time for the presentation as a whole.  In other words, if you are in a session with 2 other presentations, you will only be allocated 20 mintues.

Panel presentations were submitted together as complete sessions.  Panel presentations have been allocated the full 60 minutes with 10 minutes of discussion time at the end.  You will be responsible for dividing the 60 minutes as you see fit.  Your session chair will indicate when your time is up, and you will have 10 minutes for discussion and questions.  

Suggestions for Individual and Panel Presentations

We encourage all presenters to situate their work in current writing center scholarship. Consider what others have recently published on the topic and how the presentation relates to that context. Even if the purpose of the presentation is to showcase an initiative, method, or findings from a particular place, review recent writing center literature to show how that particular development compares with what others have done and argued.

Presenters may choose to read from written papers or speak from notes or presentation slides. If presenters choose to read from written papers, please keep in mind that the presentation is still an oral genre. Simply reading a piece originally written to be read silently will not likely engage the audience or help them track information. Oral delivery generally requires more “signposting” to prepare listeners for what’s to come and summary of previous points to help them assimilate information. At the same time, it does not require the same depth of evidence and argument that lengthy written arguments do. A few supporting points are generally enough to make a case, and detailed data sets can be summarized or saved for slides or handouts.

Please be considerate of the other presenters by keeping within the fifteen- to twenty-minute time frame. It takes about two minutes to deliver a page of double-spaced text at a comfortable pace. Therefore, think of an individual presentation as taking up no more than seven to nine pages of writing. The session chair will signal presenters at fifteen and nineteen minutes.

More extemporaneous presentations should be practiced beforehand to avoid long digressions.  Slide shows should play a supporting role for your presentation.  Avoid just reading your slides.

Poster Discussions

Posters will be displayed around the edges of the room and are especially suited to presenting on specific programs or strategies. As the audience circulates, presenters will explain their poster to small groups, discuss their work, and answer questions. Presenters may distribute handouts to summarize their presentations.  Keep in mind that you will be presenting your material to many people over and over again.  

Posters typically feature several panels or sections summarizing key aspects of the topic or project (for example, introduction/background, methods, results, and conclusions for empirical research). They often include visual diagrams to make it easy for viewers to assimilate information quickly.  Successful poster discussions usually have something for the viewer to take away with them.

We will have easels for your use.  Your poster should be mounted on thick display cardboard.  We will not provide this cardboard.  If you cannot carry your cardboard-mounted poster with you in your travels, there are several office supply stores within walking or TRAX light rail distance of the conference hotel.  The conference hotel is within the free fare zone for Utah Transit Authority.  If you stay within that zone (encompassing most of downtown) you will not have to pay a fare.


Roundtables feature a group of speakers who each give brief presentations before discussing a topic among themselves and with the audience. For NCPTW 2015, roundtable sessions will be split between two roundtables that have common themes.  This means that each roundtable group is allotted thirty minutes of the seventy-minute block.   Ten minutes will be allocated at the end of the session for discussion of both roundtable presentations and will be coordinated by the session chair.

Our roundtable rooms will be configured with chairs arranged in a U shape to facilitate conversation, since roundtables are an opportunity for others in the room to participate in a discussion.  For that reason, we suggest that you structure your formal presentations to prompt conversation.  You may wish to create writing prompts, for example, to get people thinking and talking.  Another method to get people talking is to have them work in even smaller groups that have been given a specific task.   You may also wish to have your session attendees walk away with something tangible that they created in the session.

Please be careful to make sure your discussion doesn’t run over time.  Your session chair will remind you when you have five minutes left; when your time is up, move along to the other roundtable or to mutual discussion. 


Workshops are participatory sessions that involve participants in creating something tangible for their own writing center practice.  Workshops are limited to 70 minutes and will all be held on Sunday morning, November 8, 2015.  Workshops will not have chair assigned to them, so you will need to control your time accordingly.  Formal presentation should be limited in workshop sessions so that participants have time to apply, discuss, and reflect on the instruction and their work.  Workshop attendees should be actively engaged in the session and have something tangible to take away with them.  

Public Draft Program Preview

The NCPTW preview program has been in the hands of NCPTW presenters for just about a week now, so the NCPTW2015 co-chairs Andrea Malouf, Chris LeCluyse, and Clint Gardner think that this is an opportune time to release the preview program for public viewing. If you visit you will be able to see the breadth and depth of the program in a Google Sheets spreadsheet. We have over 200 presentations and round tables over 2 days (Friday, November 6 and Saturday November 7, 2015). We also have an excellent Sunday morning of intensive workshops (November 8).

There are many other exciting events at the conference:

  •  A sold out Psychogeography Tour of area writing centers where participants will travel around the Salt Lake Valley visiting the SLCC Community Writing Center, Westminster College Writing Center, and Salt Lake Community College Student Writing Center. Participants will be invited to reflect on the impact that space and location has on writing center work
  •  An opening reception on Thursday where you can greet old friends and meet new ones.
  • Jackie Grutsch McKinney will set the keynote for the conference with her address “On Elephants, Writing Center Tutors, and Other Misunderstood Creatures.”
  • On Friday night we will have the first ever TutorCon: For, About, and By Peer Writing Tutors. Peer writing tutors are invited to join together for an evening of fun activities, music, great raffle prizes, and light refreshments.
  • On Saturday, we will have several special interest groups (SIGs): LGBTQ, anti-racism activism, high school writing centers, and language policy.
  • We’ll also have a wrap-up session on Sunday to reflect on how we can take our NCPTW experience forward into our writing center work.

In case you don’t want to click around, here are some handy links to get you going:

We’re looking forward to seeing you all in Salt Lake in November!

NCPTW Program Review Coming Right Up!

Since we had some spam issues with our acceptance notifications for NCPTW 2015, I write to let you know that we’ll soon be sending out a Google Doc invitation to the lead presenters of accepted proposals for the upcoming NCPTW 2015 program.  Again, the invitation will only go to the lead presenter of a group:  not the entire group.  The purpose of sending out the program is so that presenters may make typographical corrections to their session titles or add missing presenters.  We will provide instructions in the invitation as to how to offer those corrections.

If you aren’t presenting, this is going to be a great conference and you definitely should come!  We have over 220 presentations over the 3 days of the conference.  Information about registration, lodging, and travel can be found on the web site.

Presenters:  stay tuned and check your spam files!

The Adventures of the NCPTW Giant Pencil!

The NCPTW Giant Pencil is on tour!  You can follow its adventures over on the Untitled-1NCPTW Facebook page.  The Giant Pencil was inspired by the NCPTW2015 tee shirt design, featuring a hiker with a giant pencil for a walking stick.  In the spirit of the tee shirt, and of the Olympic Flame that toured Utah in 2002, the Giant Pencil will be wending his way to area writing centers over the next few months.

So far, it has visited the SLCC Taylorsville Redwood Student Writing Center.  Today (July 30, 2015) it will be heading over to the SLCC Community Writing Center.  Next week it will be visiting the Weber State and Westminster College Writing Centers.

Stay tuned!

Emily Beck

SLCC Student Writing Center Peer Writing Advisor Emily Beck

Jarrod Barben

SLCC Student Writing Center Peer Writing Advisor Jarrod Barben

SLCC Student Writing Center Peer Writing Advisors John Ramirez (L) and Jarrod Barben (R) Actually Write wit the Pencil

SLCC Student Writing Center Peer Writing Advisors John Ramirez (L) and Jarrod Barben (R) Actually Write with the Pencil

SLCC Student Writing Center Peer Writing Advisor Jordin Hartley

SLCC Student Writing Center Peer Writing Advisor Jordin Hartley