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SIOP Presentation Suggestions for Symposia

Symposium. A Symposium is a session in which participants present empirical papers or a combination of empirical and theoretical papers about a common issue or question. Participants in a Symposium should include a chairperson and three to four presenters. Symposia usually include discussants but do not have to do so. We encourage Symposia in which diverse and novel perspectives are presented, including sessions in which the audience plays the role of discussant and the chair facilitates the discussion. Symposia will not be accepted unless they have at least two presenters with different affiliations in the session (i.e., every presenter cannot be from the same institution). Sufficient time should be allotted for audience participation.

Suggestions for Effective Symposia Presentations

*     Complete Your Presentation 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, including the Discussant, have advance notice of each others presentations.  Do not wait until the last minute to make presentations accessible.  A common rule of thumb is to make  the presentation/paper available 2 weeks before the conference.  Doing so not only gives you more time to practice, but is considerate of other symposium members. 

*     Preparing Visual Aids. 

o      Visual aids can greatly improve the effectiveness of a presentation. While increasing an audiences interest, well-prepared slides or overheads can also clarify and support key points in the presentation.

o      If you need to refer to a particular slide more than once, prepare duplicates of the slides so you do not need to scroll back and forth during the presentation.

o      A picture is worth a thousand words. When feasible, including figures will more effectively communicate your message than a large, extensive table or words. 

*        Error Check Visual and Computer Aids Beforehand.

o      There is nothing so distracting to a presentation than presenters fumbling with technology (e.g., projector, LCD) while the audience patiently waits.  If at all possible, error check any visual or computer-based aids you intend to use before the session starts. 

*     Ask Yourself, Whats the point?

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

*     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, or they say different things to different people.  Your job is to use your expertise and insights to help others understand the information. 

*     Summarize.

o      Do not forget to allow time at the end of the presentation, and prior to giving suggestions for further research, to summarize the main points of your presentation.   During the presentation your audience members may have been engrossed in one particular element of your presentation and missed other key points.  An overhead for this purpose can be useful. 

*     Realize the Chair is in Charge.

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

o      As a general rule of thumb, plan on spending roughly one minute per slide. If you have 12 minutes to present, you generally dont want the number of slides in your presentation to exceed 12-15. 

*     Make  Visuals Readable

o      A common complaint about presentations is that the audience cant read the visuals because the typeset is too small.  For things such as large correlation matrices, it is not possible to present the information adequately.  In such cases, it may be better to not present the correlation matrix.  Make sure all your visual aids can be read from a distance.  We recommend using a font size of 20 point or greater so your visuals will be legible.  Try the floor testyou should be able to read an overhead placed on the floor from a standing position. 

*     Bring Plenty of Handouts. 

o      If you are using handouts, bring at least 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, 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. 

*     Remember, They are Visual Aids Only.

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

*     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.  

*     Assume Some Members of Your Audience will be Disabled.

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 are user-friendly for 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. 

*     Make Materials  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 during the presentation.  When speaking, avoid turning your back to the audience or standing in dimly lit areas of the room 

*     Use the Microphone.

o      Even if many audience members can hear you without it, those with hearing disabilities may not.  Also, since presentations are recorded and sold, if you dont use the microphone, it is difficult to be heard on the audio. 

*     Turn Audio/Visual Off When Not In Use.

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

*     Allow Time for Reviewing Visual Aids.

o      Assume 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 about your research. 

Suggestions for Effective Symposia Chairs

*     Preparation is the key to success. 

o      Planning for the session and helping presenters prepare contributes 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  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 the symposia flows smoothly and the audience understands clearly how the next presentation 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 your cues, and let presenters know where you will be during the presentation. 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 Before the Symposium.

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

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

*     Ensure that Session Members and the Discussant Review Each Others Papers Before the Conference.

o      It is much easier to see similarities and differences between papers when everyone  reviews 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 each presenter can focus on what is unique in his/her study.

o      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 including all session members.  This makes it easier to communicate, and ensures everyone has access to the same information. 

*     Assist with Seating of those with Disabilities.

o      Ensure that members 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 ensures 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.

o      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. 

Suggestions for Effective Symposia Discussants

*     Remember You Make a Big Difference.

o      The Discussant can tie a diverse set of papers together into a coherent theme.  In many cases, the Discussant can make an otherwise good symposium exceptional.  The best way for this to happen is to prepare in advance. 

*     Be Constructively Critical. 

o      A Discussant who finds nothing to add to a set of papers is as uninformative as a Discussant who finds nothing good with them.  Remember, you were asked to be the Discussant because you are the expert.  Now is the chance for you to demonstrate your expertise and provide insight into the domain of study.  You may not like a particular paper, but please critique it in a professional manner.  Remember to critique the research and not the person conducting the research. 

o      Try to find at least one:

       good thing to say about each paper.

       thing that could be improved in each paper.

       connection among the set of papers.

       implication for research.

       implication for practice.

o      Try to avoid spending too much time on each paper individually; focus on connections across papers and general themes.  Be sure to give each paper equal attention.

o      Overall, focus on the positive. 

*     Prepare General Discussion Points Beforehand.

o      The best way to guarantee an interactive session is to have a set of discussion points that strike to the heart of the session.  For example, why were differences between studies found?  What are the implications of these studies for research in this area?  How can these studies improve practice?  Preparing these questions before the session ensures the session moves along smoothly.

o      If possible, consider making overheads that convey this information.

o      Please have at least a couple of questions ready for the audience (e.g., has anyone found this in your own research?). 

*      Avoid Talking about Your Own Research.

o      Although you may have useful research that bears on the issues, remember your role is to discuss and critique the current set of presentations.  This is not the forum for introducing your new ground-breaking study.  Mention it if it is relevant, but focus the majority of your attention on the presenters research. 

*     Realize You Dont Have Much Time.

o      Even the most well-intentioned Session Chair cannot control some presenters, and it is possible the session will leave you with little time.  Anticipate thiswhat would be the one or two comments you would want to make sure everyone hears?  If a presenter does take too much time, avoid the temptation to chastise the presenter for his/her inconsideration. 

*     Realize You Might Not Receive the Papers in Advance.

o      If everyone does his or her job, this wont be issue.  Dont assume they will, and that you might have to comment on the presentation while it is given.  Having read and commented on the other papers beforehand will make this easier for you. 

*     Give Presenters a Copy of Your Remarks.

o      Many presenters will not have the time or energy to write down everything you say.  Providing them with your comments after the session could help your comments have greater impact.

Distributing Papers.  A good presentation entices others to read the complete paper.  In the past, distribution of papers occurred at the conference.  Many people still use this method and it is, by far, the surest way to make your research available.  Recently, however, the flexibility of e-mail and the Internet for distributing such papers has lessened the need to carry as many papers to a conference.  Nonetheless, the following guidelines will help make the process of obtaining electronic copies of your papers easier for others and yourself. 

*     Provide a Clearly-Marked Place for the E-mail/Mail Addresses of those Requesting Your Paper. 

o      In many sessions, business cards are scattered all over, making it difficult to know who requested your paper.  Provide a large envelope clearly labeled as Requests for XYZ paper.  This not only ensures that all requests stay in the same place, but also that you dont lose any business cards.  

*     Provide Your Own E-mail Address or Web Address/URL. 

o      It is difficult to correctly write down long URL or e-mail addresses, especially in a crowd of people.  You can make this process easier by having your own business cards available in sufficient quantities (usually 40 minimum). 

o      If you administer research via the Web and your business cards do not have your Web address, consider printing this address on the back of your cards, providing slips of paper with the address, or printing the address on mailing labels for others to take with them. 

*     Check for Potential Copyright Violations Before Posting Any Article to the Internet.

Different journals have different guidelines for posting material to the Internet.  Some journals consider any Web postings as a publication, and will refuse to consider the article for publication.  Others, such as the APA journals, have specific guidelines one must follow before posting to the Internet.