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Guidelines for Roundtable/Conversation Hour Sessions

Roundtable/Conversation Hour. The typical approach for this session type is to have one or two experts on a topic serve as hosts. Members of the audience are typically seated in a circle to facilitate their active participation in the discussion. This session type can be used by attendees to seek help with problems they are currently facing, to learn about the latest developments in an area, and/or to develop contacts with people who have similar interests. Proposals for roundtables/conversation hours should provide a focal topic, describe why it would be an appropriate topic for this session type, list one or two experts to serve as hosts, and provide background information about the expertise of each host. Although the experts(s) may wish to make a short presentation to begin the session, the majority of time should be devoted to answering questions from the audience and promoting discussion.

Suggestions for Effective Roundtable/Conversation Hour Presentations

Planning is Paramount (See Guidelines Useful for All Types of Sessions)

  • Have your presentation done early enough to send to other session members.
    • 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 presentations. Do not wait until the last minute to make these accessible. A common rule of thumb is to have the presentation/paper available 2 weeks before the conference. Doing so not only gives you more time to practice but also is far more considerate of other session members.
  • Accessibility of the presentation.

    • 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.
      • 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.
      • Help the audience see the information by describing and summarizing what’s being presented.
  • Show enthusiasm for your presentation.
    • 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?).
    • 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.
  • Preparation is the key to success.

    • Planning for the session and helping presenters prepare will contribute to an interesting and informative session overall.
  • Plan the use of time.

    • Start and end the session promptly. Prepare an overall plan and approximate time schedule for the session before the conference.
  • Active audience participation is critical.
    • Although you may have some pre-arranged points to discuss, involve the audience from the beginning. If possible, ask them some general questions up front, and try to tailor your presentation to their interests.
  • Help other presenters prepare well before the session.
    • Offer to review the presenters presentation, plans, visuals, or handouts. Note any duplication in the content and suggest revisions to avoid excessive repetition.
  • Try to ensure that session members can review each other’s discussion points/papers before the conference.
  • Assist with seating of those with disabilities.
    • 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.
  • Moderate the audience discussion.
    • Provide a clear description as to the nature of the session as soon as it starts, to orient the audience to the issues.
    • 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.
    • Try to encourage a friendly feel to the session.
  • Work collaboratively with the other presenters.
    • Together, can you come up with an interesting spin to the session? Are there unique perspectives that can be addressed?
  • Realize that you might not have much time.
    • Sometimes one or two questions can dominate a session. Anticipate what would be the one or two comments you would want to make sure everyone hears.

Be prepared to distribute your paper (See Guidelines Useful for All Types of Sessions).

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