Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Academic Conference Panels: Do they have to be Boring?

I suspect that most of us have sat through panel discussions hoping that the next speaker will be better than the current one and not be an additional waste of time. At the Chronicle of Higher Education, Professor Randy Laist offers some great suggestions for enlivening these panels. Here are the headlines:

Ban presenters from reading papers aloud. 

Flip the presentation. A panel might still be organized around 10-to-12-page written essays, but they could be made available in advance. The important innovation — the flip — is to replace the typical read-through with a discussion of the presenters’ arguments.

Distribute handouts. 

Rethink the moderator’s job. Moderators could set the stage by offering their own insights into the shared themes, connections, and concerns that make the proceedings a panel instead of a cluster of random presentations.

A good moderator should feel comfortable editorializing on the presenters’ work, invite them to address one another about common threads that connect their scholarship, and conclude the session with remarks that provide a sense of overview and closure.

Introduce the audience.  If the audience is small, ask people to introduce themselves; that can lay the groundwork for the conversations to come. If the size of the audience makes introductions impractical, the moderator could ask for a show of hands in response to key questions.

Incorporate writing.  In a conference panel, a moderator might also pose a question before the session starts and encourage attendees to compose a response over the course of the presentations. In other variations on this idea, the moderator might ask people to paraphrase each of the presentations briefly, write down a few keywords, or come up with a question for each panelist. Those written observations can become the basis for a robust discussion.

Use your smartphone. Record the panel as a podcast or a YouTube video, or stream it using Facebook Live. The moderator could open real-time discussion questions. Presenters could make their work available on Google Docs for collective editing or annotation by the audience. Hit your attendees with a pop quiz using Quizlet or an interactive exercise from BookWidgets.

You can read the full posting here.



| Permalink


Post a comment