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SIOP Presentation Suggestions for Panel Discussions

Panel discussion.  In a Panel Discussion, the chairperson plays a very active role, serving as a moderator who asks questions of the panelists and ensures that all panelists (three to five people) have the opportunity to speak. Panel Discussions should generate spontaneous interaction among participants and between participants and the audience. Diversity among panelists is important to the success of the session. Further, all Panel Discussion members must recognize the need for advance preparation. A Panel Discussion proposal should describe the questions that will be addressed by the panel, the underlying issues or themes to be discussed, and the structure or format of the session. 

Suggestions for Effective Panel Discussion Presentations

*     Have Your Responses to the Questions Done Early Enough to Send to Other Session Members. 

o      The best sessions are those that have a coherent theme and are well integrated.  This is best accomplished when session members have advance notice of each others comments.  Please dont wait until the last minute to make these accessible.  A common rule of thumb is to have your responses available 2 weeks before the conference.  Doing so not only gives you more time to practice, but also is extremely considerate to others. 

*     If You Use Visual Aids:

o      Prepare.  Visual aids can greatly improve the effectiveness of a presentation. While increasing an audiences interest, well prepared slides or overheads can be extremely useful for clarifying and supporting key points in the presentation.

o      Ask Yourself, Whats the point? A visual serves one main purpose:  to help make a point.  This concept sometimes gets forgotten, and tables or charts are included in the presentation for no apparent reason.  It is better to figure our your message and then determine the best way to share that message.

o      Make Sure Each Visual can be Read Without Strain From All Parts of the Room.  A common complaint about presentations is that the audience cant read the visuals because the typeset is too small.  Weve all seen presenters, time and time again, place an illegible overhead on the projector and say, I know you cant read this, but  Do not fall into this trap, it shows a lack of consideration and concern for the audience (the presenter knew it was too small, but did not fix it).  Sometimes, for things such as large correlation matrices, it is impossible to present the information adequately.  As mentioned earlier about discussing too many statistics, maybe the entire correlation matrix should not be presented, or maybe handouts are necessary.  Make sure your visual aids can be read from a distance.  We recommend that you use a font size no smaller than 20 point in order for your visuals to be legible.  Try the floor test:  you should be able to read an overhead placed on the floor from a standing position.

o      Remember, They are Visual Aids.  The most important part of the presentation is you, the presenter.  Visual aids may be a very important tool, but your words and conduct are primary.  Be particularly careful about the number and amount of information in your visuals, and the number of handouts.  After all, if the entire message is on the visuals, why do we need a presenter? 

*     Interpret; Dont Just Report.

o      As the presenter, you are the expert on the subject being discussed.  The data speak for themselves is a common expression.  The trouble is, they oftentimes dont and they often say different things to different people.  Your job is to use your expertise and insights to help others understand the information. 

*     Realize That the Chair is in Charge.

o      The Chair has the job of moderating the session and ensuring it runs smoothly.  So please respect his/her position.  If you run long, dont get mad at the Chair for telling you to stop.  By adhering to the Chairs suggestions, the session should run more smoothly for everyone. 

*     Respect Other Presenters Time.

o      You want time to discuss your research, and so do the other presenters.  Please respect their timeit is the polite and courteous thing to do. 

*     Bring Plenty of Handouts. 

o      If you are using handouts, assume you will need a minimum of 40 copies.  You might want to double-check the room size for your session.  You will probably also want to have a sign-up sheet available in case you run out.  If instead you prefer to post your materials online to be downloaded, please bring mailing labels or cards that contain your Web site.  Asking participants to write down long Web addresses will almost ensure that mistakes will be made. 

*     Accessibility of the Presentation. 

o      SIOP is committed to ensuring that conferences are accessible to people with disabilities.  Each and every member of your audience deserves the opportunity to benefit from your presentation.  Please help us with this effort by using the following guidelines: 

*     Assume that There Will be Some Members of Your Audience with Disabilities.

o      Remember, disabilities are not always obvious.  Some people will likely have difficulty seeing your visual aids and/or hearing your presentation.  Be prepared.  Design presentation materials that will be user-friendly to your whole audience. 

*     Describe the Information Presented in Your Visual Aids.

o      Help the audience see the information by describing and summarizing whats being presented. 

*     Whenever Possible, Offer Materials that are Easy to Read.

o      Handouts with black print on white paper are generally preferred.  If possible, provide large print copies of your presentation when requested. 

*     Make Yourself Visible to the Audience.

o      For the benefit of those who are deaf or hard of hearing, your mouth and face should be in direct view of the audience throughout the presentation.  When speaking, avoid turning your back to the audience and standing in dimly lit areas of the room. 

*     Use the Microphone.

o      Even if many audience members can hear you without it, the hearing limited may not.  Also, each presentation is recorded and sold, and if you are not using the microphone, it is often difficult to be heard on the audio. 

*     Turn Audio/Visual Off When Not In Use.

o      This will reduce background noise that is potentially distracting to your audience. 

*     Allow Extra Time for Reviewing Information Presented on Visual Aids.

o      Assume that some members of your audience will need time to look at the visual aids and then focus their attention on you for further information. 

*     Show Enthusiasm for Your Presentation.

o      If you cannot be excited about your topic, how can you expect anyone else to be?  To the extent you feel comfortable doing so, show that you are excited (e.g., Now here is the cool part, Would you look at this?  Can you believe this is what we found?). 

Suggestions for Effective Panel Discussion Chairs

*     Preparation is the key to success. 

o      Planning for the session and helping presenters prepare will contribute to an interesting and informative session overall. 

*     Plan the Use of Time.

o      Start and end the session promptly.  As presenters are approaching their time limits, give them a prearranged signal that they should begin to conclude their presentations.  You may need to stop a presenter in order to keep the session on track.  To do this, you may want to politely say, We really need to move on so we can stay within our allotted time.

o      Plan a logical and informative segue between each presentation, so that the session flows smoothly and the audience understands clearly how the presentation being introduced is related to the other presentations.

o      The best way to ensure the session runs on time is to let presenters know before the conference how much time they will have and the order in which theyll be presenting.

o      Prepare an overall plan and approximate time schedule for the session.  Allow sufficient time at the end of the session for audience discussion and ample time for setup of the next session in the room.

o      Encourage your presenters to practice their presentations to be sure they wont exceed the time allotted.

o      Be sure to sit in a visible position for the presenters to easily see the cue, and that presenters know where you will be during the presentation beforehand. A good rule of thumb is to let presenters know when they have 5, 2, and 1 minute remaining in the presentations. 

*     Help Presenters Prepare well Before the Panel Discussion.

o      Offer to review the presenters presentation, plans, visuals, or handouts.  Note any duplication in the content and suggest revisions to avoid excessive repetition. 

o      Have volunteers, or volunteer yourself, to place overheads for presenters. 

*     Try to Ensure That Session Members and the Discussant Can Review Each Others Papers Before the Conference.

o      It will be much easier to see similarities and differences between papers when everyone has a chance to review them beforehand.  It will also be possible to reduce redundancies in the presentation.  A particularly effective strategy is for someone to provide some guidance for how the session will go (e.g., who goes first).  This way, other presenters will know whether or not they should spend time on introductory material.  If the presentations all address different aspects of a topic area, The presenters may consider spending a few minutes discussing the topic area more generally so that each presenter can focus on what is unique in his/her study.

o      This may be difficult, as some presenters will simply not prepare their presentation until right before the conference.  But as a general rule of thumb, presenters should have their materials to the discussant at least 2 weeks before the conference (some discussants may want more time, so be sure to check). 

o      One useful technique is to set up an e-mail list that includes all session members.  This makes it easier to communicate, and ensures that everyone has access to the same information. 

*     Assist with Seating of those with Disabilities.

o      Ensure that each member of the audience can see and hear the presentations.  Reserve a couple of seats in the front and back of the room for persons using wheelchairs, canes, crutches, or motorized vehicles. 

*     Count the Number of People in the Audience.

o      Estimate the number of people attending the session.  Provide this information to the Program Chair after the session.  If possible, ask a volunteer to perform a head count at the entrance to the conference room. 

*     Moderate the Audience Discussion.

o      Provide a few general comments at the start of the session to orient the audience to the papers, and how they fit together.

o      Repeat each question or comment before responding so that all can hear.  For taping purposes this will also ensure that the question or comment is recorded.  A few minutes before the session is scheduled to conclude, politely announce that the next question will be the last.  If necessary, politely interrupt the speaker.

o      Try to encourage a friendly feel to the session. 

*     Work Collaboratively With the Discussant and Presenters.

o      Together, can you come up with an interesting spin to the session?  Are there unique perspectives that can be addressed? 

*     Ensure Session Members Audio/Visual Needs are Met.

o      Check with each presenter to ensure that his/her audio/visual needs have been met.  However, please realize that no new requests can be made at this late date.  Further, SIOP discourages the use of video projectors (e.g., as hooked up to a laptop) because of the excessive cost. 

*     Show Enthusiasm for the Session.

Your first few comments will set the tone for the entire session.  If you can show excitement for the session, it is more likely that the audience will as well.