An attentive, well-prepared Session Chair can help ensure that the speakers give high quality, trouble-free talks and that the audience appreciates the entire session.
Prior to Your Session
- Meet with the AV support staff prior to your session to review the workings of the lights, the AV equipment, and good positions for your speakers in your session's room. It is a good idea to make sure a laser pointer is available.
- Meet with all your speakers 15 minutes before the start of your session. At that time, make needed introductions and help them feel comfortable with the room arrangements and fellow participants. Discuss their positions at the podium and remind them of their time limitations. Have all your speakers try out their laptops and the microphone to determine any required assistance and to ensure a reasonable comfort level.
- Describe to your speakers 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 allotted time. Try to leave time for pertinent questions and answers (especially if the talk is particularly inspiring or controversial). If however, all time has expired for that speaker, it is acceptable to ask the audience to discuss issues with that speaker after the end of the session. It is up to you as the Session Chair to ensure that ALL speakers receive their allotted time and that the audience has opportunity for their questions and comments.
- Inform your speakers of the exact time that each of their talks are to 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. Further explain that because of this expected movement, it is particularly important for each talk to finish on time AND for the next speaker to begin at the appropriate time (even if the previous speaker ends early). You can help facilitate a smooth change between speakers by asking the next speaker to begin moving toward the front and even switching laptops while the questions and answer session unfolds.
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.
- Using the microphone, 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.
- Encourage attendees to fill out the survey at visweek.org to give feedback for future events.
- For each talk, introduce the speaker; give their affiliation and the title of their talk.
During Each Presentation
- It is up to you as the Session Chair to assist your speakers if there are problems. If the speaker's voice is fading, bring water. If the speaker'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 speaker 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 a 20-minute talk, give a *signal* to the speaker (could be card raised, or low voice). Adjust as necessary for longer presentations.
- At 18 minutes of a 20-minute talk, *interrupt* the speaker (this could done by standing up, or actually stating "It is time to conclude").
- Question/Answer Period: If time permits, the Session Chair should invite questions if the speaker does not do this.
- An excellent Session Chair will have at least one general question ready for each speaker in order to help get the discussion off the ground, should the audience be reticent.
- A really excellent Session Chair will actually ask each speaker for a potential "seed" question for you to ask should the opportunity be available!
- When questions are asked, make every effort to get a microphone to the questioner (more important for the large general sessions than for the parallel sessions). If this is not possible, remind the speaker to repeat the questions, or repeat the question yourself if you are in a better position to hear the question. Use your own judgment regarding the need for this depending on room acoustics.
- As the allotted time for the speaker's talk ends, initiate applause for the speaker.
At the End of the Session
- When the last speaker's presentation and questions/answers have concluded, THANK the audience for attending and state that your session is now completed.