Table 1 Chairing sessions: pitfalls and advice
ProblemMost appropriate solutionFirst alternative optionLifesaving alternativeNever
You are considerably less experienced in chairing than as your co-chairBefore the session, introduce yourself; be polite but self-confident.
Remember that you have prepared yourself and the presented abstracts in detail.
Before the session introduce yourself and explain that your experience is moderate.
Discuss the session plan with your co-chair.
Before the session introduce yourself and explain that you are stressed; it is the first time you chair.
Discuss the session plan with your co-chair.
Panic and find an excuse not to chair.
Uncontrolled stress before chairing the sessionAvoid improvisation; prepare yourself well for the task.
Keep smiling and show enthusiasm if possible.
Have a fair amount of sleep on the night before the session to avoid tiredness.Take a deep breath and get the job done. Stress often does not show.Drink alcohol before the session.
The session starts later than expectedExplain the situation and allow the speakers and audience to decide whether the session should last as planned with a shorter break or shorten the session time if this is acceptable to the speakers.Nicely ask all speakers before starting to adhere to time and explain to the audience that there will be less time for questions.Make a new time plan.
Give speakers and audience new instructions and time limits.
Cut any breaks.
Be late.
Make overly long comments.
Cancel all time for discussion.
Diverse presentations/ incoherent sessionFind connecting points to ensure the audience that the session was well planned.
At the end, wrap the session up in an interesting coherent way.
Tell a short, interesting anecdote explaining why the session was planned in that particular way.Make no comments.
Avoid seeing the problem.
Make impolite comments or suggestions that the session was planned in a wrong way.
A telephone rings during the sessionBefore the session, ask all participants to turn off their mobiles phones.React politely to the incident (without interrupting the speaker), look discretely towards the sound and try to make eye contact, maintaining a firm attitude.Ignore it.Answer your own telephone when you chair a session.
The session lasts longer than expectedPlan the session in advance, keep track of time regularly and include: presentations; questions; answers; and time you need to introduce speakers, open and wrap up the session.Identify the reason.
Presentation is too long: remind the speaker in a gentle but firm way to finish; interrupt if needed.
Discussion is too long: encourage gently but firmly to continue further discussion at the break time.
React whenever you have discovered that you are not adhering to the time schedule.Make unexpected long comments that are responsible for prolonging the session; do nothing to improve the time schedule.
There are no questions asked by the audienceBe prepared to carry on a discussion at any time
Use provided slides and your own expertise
Create additional questions while listening
Kindly ask your co-chair to carry on the discussionTry to tell an anecdote connected to the presentationTerminate the session before the scheduled time