(updated 2023)

CESS panels are scheduled to last one hour and forty-five minutes. Panels normally consist of: 

  • a chair, allotted a total of 3-5 minutes for panel and presenter introductions;
  • three paper presenters, allotted 20 minutes each, or four paper presenters, allotted 15 minutes each;
  • a discussant, allotted 10 minutes;
    • (if there is no discussant, the chair may pose questions or make comments)
  • followed immediately by 30 minutes for questions and group discussion
    • (if there is time at the end of the panel, the chair may ask the panelists to respond to chair/discussant remarks)


PANEL Guidelines for…


The role of Chair involves three functions:

1. Briefly introduce the panel and the panelists. You may wish to contact the panelists and ask them to provide 2-3 sentences about themselves to use for the introduction, in addition to the titles of the paper. You may request papers from the panelists if you have not received them.  Keep introductory remarks brief (2-3 minutes) to allow maximum time for the presentations.

2. Keep the presenters to the allotted time. It is critical that presenters take no more time than the time than allotted as this cuts into other presenters’ time and time for audience discussion. In most cases, the panel will have 3-4 presenters, plus a discussant. With three presenters, the norm is 20-minute presentations, while with four, it is 15 minutes. The Discussant is given 10-12 minutes, leaving at least 30 minutes for audience participation in the closing discussion (for a total running time of 1 hour and 45 minutes). Do not allow any questions before all panelists and the discussants have had time to speak. If fewer speakers appear for the panel, the Chair should decide how to divide the additional time among the speakers and inform them before beginning the panel. The Chair should pass a note to presenters to notify them when 3 minutes and 1 minute remain, and again when they should “stop.” The Chair should cut off the presenter when the time is exceeded by more than a minute and move on to the next speaker. This is a difficult job, but it is essential, given the tight time constraints which ensure everyone a chance to benefit equally from the panel.

3. Moderate the audience discussion. You should recognize audience members to address questions or comments to the panelists. Move directly from the Discussant’s comments to the first round of questions (you can take questions 2-4 at a time), and then invite members of the panel to answer those comments or questions posed by the Discussant or audience (alternately, you may ask them to respond to the Discussant’s remarks in brief closing comments). When recognizing questioners from the audience, please ask them to state their name and institution, and ask them to be concise in their questions or comments. Unless there is a great abundance of time, gather several questions before asking panelists to respond. If an audience member speaks for more than about 1-2 minutes, the Chair should not hesitate to interrupt them and move on to the next question or ask the panelist(s) to respond. Again, the Chair is the one who saves the panel and audience from long interventions that drain time from the general discussion. When there is little time, the Chair can also encourage panelists to respond only to the questions that are most interesting for general discussion.


The role of Discussant is to read the papers in advance of the panel (assuming they are provided—if not they will need to respond “on the fly”) and to prepare comments or questions which will stimulate discussion about papers individually and/or in relation to each other. These comments or questions will set the stage for the general discussion involving the audience. Paper Presenters are required to submit their papers to you as an e-mail attachment by the set deadline.

The requirement to submit the working paper in advance is an important one.  We do not remove from the panel persons who don’t submit this but it will affect the quality of the feedback given. If you do not receive a paper with enough time in advance of the conference for you to read it and prepare a response, you are entitled to inform the audience that you did not receive the paper and therefore will only be able to comment on the oral presentation. We will send reminders to presenters to adhere to the deadline, but it is also fine if you want to contact the authors in order to “nudge” them or perhaps to identify cases where there has been a technical problem and the paper needs to be resent.

Discussants typically do not have time to orally present all their comments on the papers and are encouraged to convey additional comments to the presenters either verbally or in writing after the panel.  


You must send your working paper via email to the Chair and Discussant by the set deadline.  Send the version of the paper that you will present—if you are sending a longer paper, highlight the parts that you will speak on at the conference.  The contact information of your Discussant and Chair will be provided in the preliminary program, and you are encouraged to send your paper to all panelists on your panel as well.

During your presentation, you must adhere to the allotted time. If there are 4 or more presenters on the panel, then you have 15 minutes for your presentation. If there are 3 presenters, you have 20 minutes. The Chair is asked simply to cut off the presenter if they exceed the time by more than one minute.

You may use powerpoint and/or audiovisual aids during your presentation. We do not recommend simply to read the text of your paper. The purpose of the conference presentation is to convey the thesis/ subject of your investigation in an engaging manner. At an interdisciplinary conference, papers and presentations will vary; the important thing is that you present your research findings in a way that is conducive to a robust discussion.

Typically, conference papers are working versions of a paper being prepared for publication, a dissertation chapter, or a similar purpose. You may send a longer draft to the Discussant, but if you do this you must let the Discussant know what you will focus on in your presentation, so that they may tailor discussion points accordingly. 


In an interdisciplinary conference, roundtable and forum formats vary according to the discipline, material presented, audiovisual aids, etc.  Here are some suggested practices:


Briefly introduce the roundtable/forum and its participants. You may wish to contact the participants and ask them to provide 2-3 sentences about themselves to use for the introduction, in addition to the titles of the paper. You may request papers from the panelists if you have not received them.  Keep introductory remarks brief (2-3 minutes) to allow maximum time for the participants.  The chair will also moderate discussion after initial participant remarks (please see guidelines for audience interaction in the section on panels, above.). After the opening presentations, we advise to move directly to audience questions and then to allow participants a chance to engage each other.


In a forum/roundtable, participants will generally keep their opening comments brief (about 10 minutes) to allow for maximum engagement with the audience (and each other).  If a book panel, the author should consider introducing the book first so audience members who have not read it can follow along.  In other cases, opening context from the chair, convenor, etc. will be helpful.  After your remarks, please allow the Chair to engage the audience directly—after a round or two of questions, the chair should allow the participants to engage each other’s comments also.