the chairman role

You have been appointed for a chairman role at a scientific symposium or a research conference. Congratulations! This represents a form of recognition of your skills by your peers. But what is expected from you exactly? A host, a timekeeper… Here is an overview of the chairman role, step by step.

Symposium: the chairman role


If you are preparing for the chairman’s role, two months before D-Day you should have an accurately updated schedule of the event: place and time, titles and duration of the presentations etc. According to this information you must obtain, for each intervention, the speaker biography and a summary of their presentation. These elements will help you prepare your sections, each lasting less than five minutes. Generally, the chairman speaks without slides except to present the program for the day for which it may be worth using a PowerPoint slide. Think also about writing a summary of your own career.


It is better to arrive in the room at least one hour before the beginning of the conference to soak up the atmosphere of the place, to relax (more tips against stress) and check the proper functioning of the logistics (microphones, video projectors…). This is also an opportunity to meet the other chairperson, in case there are more than one of you..

Take advantage of this moment to welcome the speakers: it is better to establish contact with them before being on stage. Tell them how you plan on presenting them and introducing their interventions. Thus they will be able to correct possible mistakes and bring you some interesting new points. Finally, do not hesitate to set up a gesture code to let them know when it is time to move on to the questions or to conclude.


We recommend you to start with a catchphrase: find links between the conference theme and recent news, for example. Then carry on with the speaker biographies. In case there are two of you, you will introduce your colleague, who will do the same in return. If you are on your own in the chairman’s role, if possible, ask another person to present your career. Then present the program of the conference in an organised, articulate manner and introduce the first speaker. You can mention their career and their publications. Especially highlight the points relating to the conference theme.


Once the speaker has started his or her speech, you should put yourself in the shoes of an audience member and make sure all conditions are good (lighting, heating…). Be especially careful with the sound quality: a faulty microphone can ruin a presentation. Take notes during the presentation. They will help you bounce off the speaker’s words in your transitional or closing speech. Always keep an eye on your watch and make sure to respected the schedule: if the speakers do not follow the rules, use the code you set up previously.

Chairman role Q & A’s

You will then have to host the question/answer session. In case no hand is raised, you must have 2 or 3 questions ‘on hand’ to ask the speaker. This will avoid long periods of silence and will encourage the audience members to ask their questions. In the event that the presentation has raised many questions, you will be able to evaluate and manage the duration of the session by counting the number of audience members raising their hand. Do not hesitate to cut short potential lengthy comments. When you reach the last question, announce the end of the session.


When the session comes to an end, go back to the stage to thank the participants, give your closing speech and announce what is next on the program.

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