Chairing a Session Guidelines
Thank you for agreeing to Chair a session and assume this responsibility. Much of the success of the
conference will rest on the efficient and consistent execution of our presentation sessions. Recognise that
you are the leader of the session. You are the one everyone will turn to if there are problems among your
presenters or within your audience.
An attentive, well-prepared Session Chair can help ensure that the presentations run smoothly and to time,
and facilitate the discussion of a paper so that the audience appreciates the entire session. The following
guidelines will help you run your session.
In the unlikely event that one of your presenters cancels at the very last minute please keep to the
schedule. This can prove very helpful to the program. At issue here is maintaining the published schedule.
When a presenter drops out after the schedule is published, and attendees have made plans as to which
talks to attend, a disruption caused by an empty slot can snowball across different tracks and disappoint
people who really wanted to see other presenters in your session. So, rearranging the order of presenters
should not be done lightly without consideration for the effect on attendees.
Prior to your session
- Meet with all your presenters during the break before your session and ensure that the
presentations are all loaded on the computer - if you haven't already done so at an earlier time.
- Make needed introductions and help them feel comfortable with the room arrangements and
fellow participants. Discuss their order of presentation and remind them of their time limitations.
Have all your presenters open their file and try out their presentation to determine any required
- Describe to your presenters the method you will use to notify them when they are nearing their
presentation time limit and how you will interrupt them if they have reached the end of their
- Each room will be provided large 5 minute and 2 minute notices on A4 paper for the Session Chair
to let presenters know the amount of time they have left. If they run out of time simply stand up
and move to the front of the room and help the presenter complete their presentation rapidly.
- It is up to you as the Session Chair to ensure that ALL presenters receive their allotted time and
that the audience has opportunity for their questions and comments.
- Inform your presenters of the exact time that each of their talks should begin, and remind them
that attendees are free to get up and move to another session after each talk. Two or three
minutes should be allocated for this anticipated movement of people from session to session. Thus
each presenter has allotted:
- 20 minutes to present their paper or extended abstract
- 8 minutes for discussion/Q&A
- 2 minute change over
- Further explain that because of this expected movement, it is particularly important for each talk
to finish on time AND for the next presenter to begin at the appropriate time (even if the previous
presenter ends early).
When your session begins
- Concern yourself with the environment - check sound and lights. Directly ask members of the
audience if they can see you and hear you clearly. Your audience will appreciate that you are in
charge and concerned about them and the quality of the session.
- Formally announce the beginning of the session. If needed, politely encourage the audience to
settle into their seats and conclude their conversations.
- Introduce yourself as Session Chair and give your affiliation.
- For each presentation, introduce the presenter; give their affiliation and the title of their talk. It
is nice to give a brief introduction of the presenter - perhaps their background, or how their talk
fits into the scheme of the session or conference. You may wish to use the published abstract as a
starting point for this "introduction" material.
During each presentation
- It is up to you as the Session Chair to assist the presenters if there are problems. If the presenter's
voice is fading, bring water (each room should have water and glasses provided). If the presenter's
presentation is not displaying well, help adjust the equipment. If lights need to be dimmed, either
do it yourself or ask someone else to do it. If the presenter cannot be heard or cannot be seen, you
should politely try to correct the situation.
- You must keep track of elapsed time during a presentation:
- At 15 minutes of the 20 minute presentation signal the presenter with the 5 minute card, then at
18 minutes signal with the 2 minute card.
- At 20 minutes *interrupt* the presenter (this could done by standing up, or actually stating "It is time to conclude").
- Discussion and Question/Answer Period: If time permits, the Session Chair should invite questions
if the presenter does not do this.
- A good practice for Session Chairs is to have at least one general question ready for each presenter
in order to help get the discussion off the ground, should the audience be reticent.
- Another good practice is for the Session Chair to actually ask each presenter, before the session, for
a potential "seed" question for you to ask should the opportunity be available!
- When questions are asked, remind the presenter to repeat the questions, or repeat the question
yourself if most people in the room do not hear the question. Use your own judgment regarding
the need for this depending on room acoustics.
- As the allotted time for the presenter's talk ends, initiate applause for the presenter.
At the end of the session
- When the last presenter has finished, THANK the audience for attending and state that your session
is now completed.
- Remind the audience as to what activity is happening on the program next - coffee break, meal etc.
Thank you again for your help