15 October 2013 3 Comments
What’s worse than having to give a conference paper in front of my esteemed colleagues?
I’d say it’s chairing these esteemed colleagues!
Through my years of presenting at and convening conferences, I have always had one greater fear than being the paper-giver and that was being the chair. It feels pathetic to admit this, but the responsibility of chairing brought all my apprehensions about public speaking to the fore.
When giving a paper, I’m usually anxious about “question and answer” (Q&A) time – the Wild West of conference moments (right next to the conference dinner…). It was a time over which you had little control over what might be thrown at you. You couldn’t plan for it. My imagination (which is excellent, by the way), conceived of all manner of intellectual take-downs and derisive snorts about my conclusions.
These preoccupied me such that I wrote about my strategies for handling Q&A.
Chairing taps into all my existing anxieties: it was a whole session where you weren’t necessarily in control of what people might say or do, but this is specifically what you are tasked with as the chair.
I’ve written before about how to build your conference karma (aka ‘how to make convenors love you’) and, spurred on by a recent query from my colleague Warren Staples (@warrenstaples), here’s a list of strategies I’d suggest to get you through a chairing gig.