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Interactive Sessions at SIOP: What Are They and How Do They Work?

Lisa M. Finkelstein
Northern Illinois University

Mike Horvath
Clemson University

One of the reasons that the SIOP conference is so exciting is that it gives us the opportunity to interact with other SIOP members who share similar interests. In recent years, SIOP has worked to facilitate this interaction by adding new types of sessions to the program. So far, these sessions have been successful, and we hope to continue that success at future SIOPs. However, based on casual feedback, it seems that many members are either not aware of these sessions or are not completely sure what they are all about. Therefore, the purpose of our article is to explain two of these new sessions in order to increase awareness of, interest in, and attendance at these sessions. 

Interactive Poster Sessions

Interactive poster sessions were introduced at the 2003 conference and, based on their success, increased in number for the 2004 conference. The interactive poster sessions each highlight four posters chosen from the accepted poster submissions in a given topic area. The sessions typically take place in one of the smaller, more intimate rooms to encourage discussion. In a session, authors present their research on poster boards just like the regular poster sessions. The first 15 minutes work just like a regular poster session, with attendees mingling among the posters and talking with the authors. A facilitator then suggests that everyone, guests and authors included, take a seat in the provided chairs and kicks off the rest of the 1-hour session with introductions and short comments by the authors. After that, the floor is opened up to discussion around the themes of the posters. The facilitator may have some questions prepared to get discussion started, but typically the group is easily able to begin a casual, informal discussion of the postershow they relate to each other as well as to the broader topic. 

These sessions are a great way to meet colleagues with common interests and engage others in an informal discussion of a topic that interests you. Many past interactive poster sessions have been very successfulweve been excited to see the room filled with a wide mix of individuals (i.e., from graduate students to well-known individuals in the field) who all felt comfortable engaging each other in an interesting discussion. However, in order for these sessions to be successful, they need to have an audience who is willing to stay and discuss the topic. Please make sure you look for these sessions in the program next year and plan to come to one that interests you.

How does a poster get into an interactive session? These selections are handpicked by the Program Committee to create a set of papers that fit well together and foster interesting discussion among authors and the audience. The facilitator and the authors are provided with all four papers a few weeks before the conference to allow them some time to think about the work that is being presented. We hope that the authors of posters selected for an interactive session consider it an honor and a great opportunity to interact with others about their research. 

Communities of Interest

Another way to meet people who have similar interests is by attending a Community of Interest. Communities of Interest do not have preestablished memberships (in other words, you dont need an invitation to attend). Rather, they are intended to create new communities and networks of individuals around a particular topic (or to maintain and strengthen existing networks through the inclusion of new members). Introduced at the 2004 conference, these communities are located at various times at a sectioned-off space (this year they were near the posters). They are probably the most casual and unstructured thing you can attend at SIOP (Well, maybe aside from the receptions!). Individuals interested in meeting others with similar interests merely have to show up and start talking to other attendees. 

A Community of Interest is a great place to meet collaborators, generate new ideas, have stimulating conversations, or just meet some new friends with common ground. If you are new to SIOP or perhaps dont know a lot of others in the profession who share your interests, this would be a great way to network. If you are a SIOP veteran who is already an established member of a community related to the topic, we would love to have you come by a Community of Interest to share your knowledge and meet new individuals who are interested in the same topic you are. 

Themes for Communities of Interest are generated to represent topics thought to be of interest to our membership. If you have an idea for a community youd like to see, please contact one of us with your suggestion (see below).


We (LisaProgram Chair, and MikeChair of Interactive Sessions Strategic Planning Subcommittee) are working with a great subcommittee (Lillian Eby, Jennifer Kaufman, Kathryn Niles-Jolly, and Bob Sinclair) to make the interactive sessions the best they can be. If anyone has any questions, comments, or suggestions regarding these sessions (including ideas for themes), please contact either Lisa at lisaf@niu.edu or Mike at mhorvat@clemson.eduwe would love to hear from you. We are already looking forward to some exciting interactive sessions in L.A.!

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