Guidelines for Oral Session Chairs

Thank you for serving as the chair of a PAA session. The quality and tenor of the session will be impacted by your work.

Note that your role as chair includes both pre-conference preparation and facilitation during the conference. Please build a good rapport among the presenters in advance (by making introductions/connections among the participants) to set a positive tone during the session (by ensuring a fair allocation of available time and fostering a collegial and professional exchange).


At least two weeks before the conference, connect with all of your session participants, including discussants, on the following points:

  1. Please lay out the plan for the session and specify the time to be allocated for each presenter and discussant. If you wish to enforce a slide limit in the interest of time, make sure to tell presenters in advance; one slide per minute is a useful rule of thumb. Be sure to reserve time for audience questions at the end. Important: sessions are 75 minutes long.

 * For a typical four-paper regular session or invited session, a benchmark schedule would be 3 minutes to get going and make introductions, 12 minutes for each presentation, 12 minutes for the discussant, and 12 minutes for audience questions.

  1. The deadline for participants to upload papers to MiraSmart is March 22 in order to make them available to the session's discussant. If your discussant is willing to accept papers after the posted deadline or if the presenter does not wish to have their paper available online, they can make other arrangements. In any case, we encourage you to make it clear to participants that there is a deadline to upload papers for discussants and that discussants are not required to discuss any paper received after the deadline.

  2. Please encourage presenters to share any materials available in advance of the session with all other members of the session. This allows presenters to build upon on each other's work, identify linkages across presentations, and save time by not repeating the obvious from someone else's presentation.

  3. At the same time, please let members of your session know that all materials received (papers and presentations) should not be circulated to anyone beyond the participants in the session.

  4. It is your responsibility to assure that there is a laptop available for the session. Identify someone (ideally yourself) who has an appropriate computer for connecting to the projection equipment. Tell the participants to send their presentations to the person with the computer at least 24 hours before the session so that they can be loaded prior to the session. Follow up with any presenter who has not sent a presentation and make a plan to get the presentation on the laptop before the session begins. This saves time during the session.

At the Session

  1. Arrive early. Locate and welcome your speakers and attendees. Make sure you have the correct pronunciation of participants’ names.

  2. Please make sure to start on time and end on time. This maximizes the time allocated for content and keeps the overall conference on schedule. As is typical for PAA meetings, we strongly encourage you to defer all audience questions and comments until the end

  3. Please set the stage. Welcome the audience, introduce yourself as the Chair, and identify the session title. You may add a brief comment or two to prime the audience for the session, but please limit your remarks to avoid impinging on presenters’ time. 

  4. Introduce each presenter and title as one speaker is transitioning to the next. You can thank the previous presenter and introduce the next, noting the name and affiliation of the individual giving the presentation and the title of their paper.

  5. Please keep to the order listed in the program. Some people come to listen to one speaker and may be disappointed if the presentations are not made in order.

  6. Please watch the clock and monitor time. Warn your speakers as their time draws to a close by indicating the time remaining (typically 5 minutes, 2 minutes, and stop. Be firm. 

  7. Be sure to allow time for audience discussion at the end. Audience discussion is a crucial element of PAA sessions, and many audience members are disappointed if they don’t have the opportunity to engage the panel. At the same time, please be prepared to facilitate discussion (including interjecting your own questions if audience members do not have questions right away). If you have time, you may want to ask presenters if they want to briefly respond to discussant comments before the audience participation. However, please do not let this interfere with the audience’s opportunity to participate.

  8. During discussion period, scan the audience for raised hands and call on people in turn. Ask that questions be short and targeted and encourage attendees to follow-up after the session as well. If there are many people with questions, avoid letting one person monopolize the discussion.

  9. Clearly define the conclusion of the session by thanking the presenters and the audience and state that the session has ended.

  10. Please troubleshoot if necessary  and if you encounter any problems in your session, you can email PAA staff at This email will go to all PAA staff who will provide help as soon as possible and should only be used onsite, during your session.  Please keep in mind that this email address will only be monitored from the start of the pre-conference workshop until the end of the conference, and staff will only respond to emails concerning technical issues or emergencies.

To access the papers in your session, log into MiraSmart and click Chair/Discussant Home if you are not taken there upon log-in.  There you will see information for any session for which you serve as discussant or chair. In addition to being able to access each submission, you will also be able to email presenters directly from MiraSmart.