Thank you for serving as a competitive session chair at the annual AIB US–Southeast meeting. Your service is critical for the conference’s success. Session chairs are particularly important because they serve as both chair and discussant. While you are not expected to act as a pure discussant, we appreciate it if you could help to initiate a discussion during the session and provide some integrative comments and/or manuscript-specific comments at the end of the presentations. This can be done effectively by directing the conversation to common themes that cut across the individual presentations. Below are some key recommendations:
1. GET ACQUAINTED AHEAD OF TIME WITH THE PEOPLE IN YOUR SESSION
As session chair, you are expected to contact everyone in your session in advance—one week before the conference is ideal.
You can find the participants in your session, and their e-mails, in the conference program on the website. We also suggest you download the information for your session (you can COPY and PASTE the text into MS WORD) for later reference. Please check the time of your session and make sure you have it entered in your agenda and online calendar.
2. CIRCULATE THE PAPERS IN YOUR SESSION AHEAD OF TIME
Prior to the conference, the conference organizers will e-mail all papers to you. Please circulate the papers to all authors to encourage everyone in your session to read them before the conference. This way, each participant can attempt, in their presentation, to link their papers to the other presentations for a more cohesive and stimulating session. Feel free to e-mail the authors any additional or specific instructions, as the sessions do differ in length, numbers of participants, purpose, and content.
Here is a template of an excellent introductory message, courtesy of Kevin Lowe, University of North Carolina, Greensboro:
Dear <insert name>:
You are listed as first authors in our <insert session name> session scheduled for <insert date and time> in <insert room location>.
Also attached are the submissions for this session. Please be sure to read each paper in our session so that you can make cross-paper references within your own presentations.
We have four papers and 75 minutes. Therefore, I ask you to plan on a presentation of approximately 12 minutes. Each paper can then be followed by an audience question or two that will absorb about 3 minutes per paper.
So, the session time allocation would break down like this:
- 2 minutes to introduce the papers and the session theme
- 60 minutes for paper presentations and follow-on questions
- 3 one-minute transitions between papers
- 10 minutes for general audience discussion following the four papers.
- 75 minutes total
From this allocation, you can see that it is important to finish your paper presentation around the 12-minute mark.
Please confirm for me that you will be presenting the paper and if not which one of your co-authors will do so.
I look forward to seeing you all online soon. Please feel free to contact me at this e-mail, or via text at ***.***.**** for emergencies.
3. ORDER OF PRESENTERS
Keep the order of papers as outlined in the Conference Program unless there is a problem. We ask that each presenter remains in the session in which they’re scheduled throughout that session as a courtesy to the other speakers.
4. MANAGE THE SESSION TIME
Most sessions are 75 minutes and have 4 papers. We recommend allowing 12 minutes for presentation and 3-4 minutes for Q&A following each presentation. That should still allow for 5-10 minutes of general discussion following all presentations. Since there are no separate discussants, it is important that you give the audience sufficient time to comment.
Please enforce the time limits we have proposed. Presenters who go past their allotted time are taking it away from other presenters and the audience’s Q&A time.
Signal the presenter as time nears expiration, e.g., 5 minutes left, 2 minutes left, and when time expires. Inform presenters ahead of time to watch for these notifications, and that we expect them to stop when the STOP sign is held up.
If a presenter starts becoming highly defensive in response to comments they receive, please try to intervene and move the discussion to another direction. These defensive stances add little to the discussion, and reduce time available for further feedback. Invite them to continue the discussion later after the close of the session.
5. HOW TO START A SESSION
As chair, it is up to you to start the session. The first thing is to start on time, even if others join late. This is often hard to do, especially first thing in the morning when people can straggle in.
The second thing is to introduce the topic and the speakers. Your introduction should take no more than 2 minutes. From the beginning, try to use an informal, first-name tone.