A Chair’s Guide to Best Practices at ACCUTE

Note: Biographical notes for all ACCUTE presenters are available here: https://accute.ca/bio-notes-for-presenters/.


Contact your speakers as a group in advance, either before the conference or at the conference, so you can check in case their biographical information, affiliation, or paper title has changed; to refresh them on time limits and a/v requirements; and to find out about name pronunciations. As one ACCUTE member says, this contact “shows interest, [and] can, funnily enough, give them a sense of coherence as a group, and can also avoid those last-minute updates/changes to your introductions that you’re (i.e., I’m) more likely to screw up.” Another member notes that getting together for a coffee in advance “builds rapport among the panelists, allows them to think of links between papers for a more fulsome discussion, and helps grad students make connections with more senior scholars.” 


As one of our members put it, “Chairs should focus not only on managing the people but also the space and the tools within it. The best chairs I have seen have taken the time to familiarize themselves with the room and its technology: they arrive early enough to quickly arrange chairs for presenter visibility, help presenters by pre-loading materials, and problem-solve if things go wrong, all the while trying to keep the ‘show going.’ Some attention to the room reduces the anxiety of presenters, and maximizes the audience’s experience.” 

All rooms are provided with standard audio-visual decks. Please ask your presenters to make sure they have test-run their a/v component in advance of the session and that they have set up and connected any laptops, flash-drives, or other equipment so it is ready to go before the session begins. Tech support is available on site. Mac users should bring their own mac adaptor/dongle.


Be sure to have the appropriate information about each presenter in hand in advance of the session. Introducing each speaker just before they speak (rather than all at once at the beginning) allows a minute or so for transitioning a/v and taking a position at the podium. Keep your introductions brief: usually the presenter’s name, position, affiliation and the title of their paper will suffice. Don’t forget to introduce yourself when you welcome the attendees, and to announce the session topic. Remind attendees and panellists that while live Tweeting is permitted (#congressh, #accute), they should remember to silence all personal devices. 

Please let the person at the ACCUTE desk know if there are any presenter no-shows. It would also be helpful for the organizers if you made a note of approximately how many people attended the session. 


Bring a watch or timer so you can keep track of presentation lengths. Let your presenters know ahead of time what the time limits are (15 minutes for four-paper panels, 20 minutes for three paper panels) and how you will be regulating time. Session chairs may use the handy-dandy printable signs provided at the end of this document or a (G-rated) hand gesture to signal when time is running down, and intervene verbally (“I’m sorry, that’s time; I’m afraid we’ll have to move on to the next presenter” or “I’m afraid we’ll have to pursue this during the question period, so we can hear all the papers”) when the presentation has gone significantly overtime. 


Panel chairs moderate the question period and try to make sure that all panelists are engaged in the conversation. We recommend holding questions until after all papers have been delivered. It’s conventional for the Chair to call on questioners, and to ask them to identify themselves. Have an icebreaker topic or question prepared to get the ball rolling in case there are no initial questions. When the session time is up, remember to thank the speakers and audience. 


Basic acknowledgement for session chairs: Welcome to the University of British Columbia. The UBC campuses and operations are located on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territories of the Musqueam people (Point Grey campus), the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh peoples (Downtown Vancouver campus), and the Syilx Okanagan people (Okanagan campus).