Participant Guidelines

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These guidelines are for all conference participants to establish expectations. As you prepare for the Fall Research Conference, please keep the following points in mind:
  • APPAM members like to talk and react. Members include many experts; session participants consistently praise our conferences for the exceptional amount of professional interaction that occurs. Much of this interaction happens within or is stimulated by the session discussions. With this in mind, please allow a full 20 minutes for audience questions and commentary. This 20-minute period is separate from the time normally accorded to panelists responding to the discussant's comments. 
  • Presentations should last no longer than 15 minutes in panels with three presenters or 12 minutes if there are four presenters. The discussant should be granted roughly as much time as a presenter. Multiple discussants should divide this allotted time among themselves. 
  • If they are to provide useful insight to authors and serve as stimulants for audience follow-on, discussants must receive papers at least two weeks in advance of the conference. Two weeks is the minimum acceptable time for participants to be able to read the session papers. 

Advice to Presenters 

The following format is suggested as it has been found to work well within the 12-15 minute time frame. 
 

Organization

Begin with a one-minute overview summary of the paper that includes the central question addressed and the major conclusions. To the extent possible, these conclusions should include policy implications. 
 

Explanation

Follow with the reasons listeners ought to accept the paper's conclusions: the underlying theory, description of the evidence, methodological defense of the evidence, and connection to (and improvement upon) the existing literature. This manner of exposition differs from that of a journal article but it is more appropriate to a conference format. Speaking is a more effective way to get an explanation across than reading. 
 

Presentation Technology

Many people use PowerPoint to prepare and display presentations. APPAM will provide LCD projectors in all meeting rooms for use during conference sessions. The Program Committee urges all conference participants to ensure that use of this technology does not interrupt or delay a session. With a strict 90 minutes for panel sessions, even a minor delay can greatly hamper the success of a panel. Remember that there will be less than 15 minutes available for setting up computer equipment prior to the start of most sessions. All presenters on a session may wish to put their presentations on a single computer or flash drive to simplify matters during the panel. Please note, APPAM does not provide laptops for the panels so if a presentation requires a computer, one of the presenters must bring one. APPAM does provide a screen and LCD projector for use, if necessary.
 

Contents and Format of Presentation Slides

Try to economize on the number of slides in a presentation. Slides should be readable from at least 30 feet, and should be displayed long enough for viewers actually to comprehend the message they are supposed to convey. A good rule of thumb is one substantive slide (a key exhibit, not an outline page) for every two minutes of presentation (or no more than 6 or 7 total slides per presentation). Create slides specifically for the APPAM audience. 
 

Guidelines for chairs 

The chair can be critical to the success of a session. The principal challenge for a chair is to enforce time allotments. A presenter that runs over his or her allotted time is using time that belongs to another presenter or to the audience. APPAM asks chairs to do the following
  • Monitor paper progress before the meetings and encourage timely distribution of session papers to all presenters and discussants. 
  • If possible, convene the panel in advance to make introductions and develop some rapport. 
  • Start the session on time and state the ground rules at the beginning of the discussion, including timing and commitment to discussion. Note that observing stated time limits shows respect for other presenters and for the audience. 
  • Introduce all participants at the beginning of the session. 
  • Monitor the clock. Presenters who appear to be off-track for completion on time should be cautioned mid-presentation. APPAM will supply chairs with four signs that read, "5 minutes" "2 minutes", "1 minute", and "Stop" to help alert presenters to their timing. 
  • Chairs should sit in the front row of the audience, facing the presenters, rather than at the head table, while the presentations are in progress. 
  • Do not ask the panelists to respond to the discussant(s) comments. Instead, move quickly to an open discussion that involves the audience. 
  • Be prepared to initiate the question period if the audience is not engaged and ensure that questions and statements from the audience are short and to the point. 

Guidelines for Discussants 

Discussants should also be aware of the above time limits. Please allow yourself 2 weeks to read the papers for the sessions. Discussants should also keep the following in mind:
  • Discussants are encouraged to make integrative comments rather than paper-by-paper critiques. In many cases, very specific or detailed critics can be shared with paper authors outside of the session. 
  • Discussants should, if possible, contribute to the policy focus of the session. 
  • In general, discussant remarks about each paper should deal with the major issues that enhance or undermine the paper' contributions, reserving minor issues for direct communication with the authors.
  • Discussants are encouraged to help shape the audience participation in the session by identifying key points worthy of further analysis and discussion. 

Final Thoughts 

An excellent panel session is one in which the presenters focus on the more important issues in their research, and collectively, with the aid of the discussant(s), highlight connections among the presented papers. The conference should be an opportunity for professional development in which presenters and session audiences interact to enhance understanding of the issues. Your cooperation with the guidelines in this memorandum will help create an environment for this to occur. 
 
If you have any questions, please contact Jocelyn Mason.
 
 
Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management (APPAM)
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Phone: 202.496.0130 | Fax: 202.496.0134
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