Guidelines for Chairing a Parallel (or Plenary) Session

Preparation is key to your success as a session chair. Below please find the expectations for a session chair and a few suggestions that will help things go smoothly.

Before the session starts:

  1. Introduce yourself to the presenters scheduled for your session beforehand (by email if possible and again at the conference).
  2. Read each of the papers in your session in advance.
  3. Prepare a few questions about each paper to encourage meaningful discussion.
  4. Arrive at the session at least 5 minutes before the session starts.
  5. Carry a wristwatch in order to keep the time.

During the session:

  1. Introduce the presenters by name, and state the titles of their presentations.
  2. In a one-hour session, keep equal time for the presentations. If the session starts late, reduce the time equally for all presenters (Have presenters adhere to 15 minutes maximum for presentation, with the last 5 minutes maximum per presentation for questions and answers. There is a separate Q&A for each presentation.) For longer sessions, adjust the times accordingly, following the principles in this example.
  3. Ensure that the scheduled order of presentations is followed; please do not rearrange the sequence of presentations within the time slot.
  4. Be prepared to resolve logistic problems with the help of the room supervisor.Be considerate of the author’s aptitude for presenting and guide if needed.
  5. Be prepared to get questions started if the audience does not have any.


Please find further suggestions in this short but informative article on chairing a session: