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AEA hopes that each session is welcoming, inclusive, fair, respectful and most importantly, an opportunity for professional learning and networking. Towards that end, the AEA Conference Policy Committee has developed the following guidelines for serving as a chair, discussant, or presenter at Evaluation 2007:

Guidelines for serving as a Session Chair

The quality and tenor of the session depends greatly on the active and early participation of the session chair. The chair can build a network among the presenters, set the tone for the session, make connections among the people and topics, ensure fair allocation of the time available, and foster collegial and professional exchange. Should challenges arise, the chair will be looked to for guidance. Throughout the session, the chair will be looked to for leadership. The role of the chair ideally includes both pre-conference preparation and during-conference facilitation. We offer these guidelines to you as the chair of a valuable conference session.

Pre-conference: At least one month before the conference, please connect with all of your presenters, including discussants, co-chairs, etc., as a group, in order that each may learn from the other and the session may go as smoothly as possible. Once the program is posted, in July, you will be able to see the list of everyone in your session, with their email addresses, by going to the online program. Pre-conference, as a chair you should:

Insider tip: If no presenter representing a particular presentation responds, reach out a second time, one-on-one, to be sure that he or she received the original correspondence and is still planning to attend the conference.

Insider tip: Take a look through slides and offer guidance if appropriate. Are they readable from a distance? Is the number reasonable for the time allocated?

At the session: The time has come - seize the opportunity to build a learning community in your session room! At the session, as a chair you should:

Insider tip: If you can't locate a speaker, go forward without that presentation and take the opportunity to facilitate more discussion at the end. Avoid re-allocating the time for formal presentations as presenters may not be prepared to do so.

Insider tip: If the setup for the room allows, have your presenters sit beside one another in the order of their presentations. As the chair, sit immediately next to the podium, if there is one, as you will be the person getting up and down the most to speak and provide transitions.

Insider tip: Prepare a very short introduction from the pre-conference discussion among the participants and/or by using the abstracts in the online program.

Insider tip: A timing card is placed in each room, noting ‘3 minutes’, ‘1 minute’, and ‘stop’. Show these to the facilitators and use them – or enlist a colleague in the audience – to provide warnings. If the card is gone, make your own.

Insider tip: Be prepared with a question appropriate to the topic just in case none are forthcoming from the audience; however, first give the audience the chance to raise its questions.

Guidelines for serving as a Discussant

While not all sessions have discussants, when one is present, that person serves a pivotal role in tying the multiple components of the session together. Discussants are expected to respond from their own base of knowledge rather than to conduct further research on a topic. However, discussants should participate in pre-conference discussions and exchange of information, and be prepared and thoughtful in their answers. As a discussant, you should strive to foster the exchange and development of ideas and the professional growth of the presenters and the audience.

Insider tip: Truly outstanding discussants may wish to prepare a resource list that fleshes out the topic and provides the audience with a take-away handout for use beyond the session. This may be drawn from your own expertise and/or supplemented by recommendations from the presenters during the pre-conference discussion.

At the session: This is your time to listen intently to each presentation, take notes, and provide your thoughtful response. At the session, as a discussant you should:

Insider tip: Take notes. One option is to put a line down the center of a piece of paper and write brief quotes or snippets from the presentation on one side and your response on the other.  

Listen actively: Attend to each presentation, focusing on the big picture messages. Do not critique minutiae of content or delivery, but rather attend to the themes and lessons of the presentation. 

Insider tip: Consider using post-its for your notes that may be rearranged on the spot to sequence your response.


Insider tip: Read the newspaper and consider whether recent developments in the news may tie in to the session content.


PresenterGuidelines for serving as a Presenter

Presenters share their knowledge and expertise through the 500+ presentations at the event. As such, you are the backbone of the conference. Presenters need to prepare in advance, deliver content articulately and concisely, and follow-up to build knowledge networks. Please note that the guidelines below have intentionally be left broad so that they apply to all session types with the exception of posters and roundtables which are unique among AEA offerings. If you are presenting a poster, click here for poster guidelines, and if you are presenting a roundtable, click here for roundtable guidelines.

Insider tip: Outstanding presenters include as part of their handouts a) key lessons to be learned, and b) a list of resources (web links, books, people) to learn more.

Insider tip: If using transparencies, number your slides, in case they should get re-arranged or dropped, so that they may be readily re-ordered.

Insider tip: Do not read from a paper or even from your notes. Practice until you can give the presentation with only a glance or two at note-cards to ensure you are on track.

At the session: This is your time to listen intently to other's presentations and to share your own knowledge and expertise. At the session, as a presenter you should:

Post-conference: After the event is over, you likely will receive emails or calls from those who heard, or heard of, your presentation. If you were making a paper presentation, you should be prepared to email the completed paper. This is an opportunity to build your professional network and sustain the field through collegial exchange. Where appropriate, you may want to ask those inquiring about their work to see how it might mesh with your own in ways that could be advantageous to you both.