Chair at a conference

Chairing at a conference, congress or summit is prestigious and provides an excellent opportunity to raise one's profile and network with association experts.

The role of the Chair is critical to the success of the event, and includes making sure there is energy "in the room" and that people enjoy it. Being dynamic and engaging the audience’s interest and participation as much as possible.  You will be shaping the learning of these key association executives.

Specific tasks for the Chair

In advance
  • Reviewing the programme content of the sessions you are chairing, and making suggestions of adjustments to the topics in each presentation
  • Liase with the speakers approximately six weeks prior to the event, to ascertain cross-over and to advise speakers accordingly
  • Some events require the Chair to host a conference call with the speakers in your sessions (see details below)
  • Preparing your plan for chairing, including potential areas of contention for each presentation in the stream
  • Prepare one or more polls for delegates to respond to
  • Review the delegate list so you know what types of job roles and associations are represented
Physical events only
  • Arrange a time to meet your speakers onsite either before the day or early in the morning
  • Arrive the day before
  • Liaise with the AAE speaker co-ordinator and then the meeting room manager and AV technician for your room
During the event
  • Arrange for Polls to be presented, and then comment on responses
  • Make notes of key points made by the speakers and any issues raised (in order to provide a summary after the event)
After the event
  • Write a short overview of the stream, 100 - 500 words, for the news to AAE community
  • Send your notes (see above) by email to the AAE Speaker Co-ordinator, for her to add to the presentation in the Resource Centre
  • Join in Discussion online, on all the Presentations of your stream, added to the Resource Centre

Conference call with speakers in advance

For some events it is necessary to have a Chair's conference call with the speakers. This will be scheduled with you and the AAE Speaker Co-ordinator, and you should invite the speakers to attend with the Video Conference link provided by AAE, and a Calendar Request.  In the conference call you should:

  • Describe how you are going to chair the stream
  • Raise any issues of overlap you foresee and get clarification of how this will be avoided, and how speakers may refer back to presentations that will be made prior to their own
  • Request speakers send you and the speaker co-ordinator their presentations for your review (she will confirm the date in advance), this is that you can facilitate the discussions and check over any cross over and or other issues.
  • Confirm you will be introducing the speakers, rather than they introducing themselves
  • Remind the speakers of the necessity to keep to time
  • Reconfirm timing breakdowns of sessions, example timings are listed on the "Speak at a congress"  to view the page click here >>

During the Event

Opening remarks
  • Open with a few comments about the subject of the stream / event and each of the topics that will be adressed in the sessions you are chairing
  • Introduce the first speaker
Questions to the audience

For some events the Chair and Programme Director agree two profile questions or situation options to poll the audience, so the speakers and audience has an understanding of who is in the room. Please consider what these should be, and advise the AAE Programme Director.

Introducing the Speakers & Talks

Your introductions should build authority in the speaker so that delegates are enthused to hear what they are going to hear. Introduce them with reference to their position and organisation, and the "Why listen to this speaker" text, specifically explaining why delegates should listen to the speaker, not detailing their previous positions and academic achievements / personal interests, which are available in their profile.

It is not suitable to say "It says here..." or similar. Your attention to their introductions in advance will avoid any misunderstanding or scepticism of the speaker's achievements.

The talks vary in length, and are normally 20 minutes, but can be up to 30 minutes. The length will be specified in the briefing sheet provided you.

Speakers must not be allowed to go over their time under any circumstances. Please give them a 5 minute warning, 2 minute warning, 1 minute warning, and at zero time, (stand up and approach them) and I ntervene, advising the audience that we need to move on, and move on to the the Q&A.

Questions and Answers (Q&A)

Q and A is between 5 and 15 minutes, and is normally for clarification of points made only. It is not for follow up or expanding on what was said. Any expansions can be done face-to-face by the speaker at the end of the session, or online in the Discussion under the Talk, when added to the Resource Centre.

Delegates asking questions should wait for the microphone and then introduce themselves by name and organisation. Please feel free to direct staff to the next delegate to speak. If there is more than one microphone in use, please queue-up the next questioner/microphone so there is a rapid follow-on.


A period of 15-25 minutes is provided for delegates in groups to discuss "How to apply what they have learned".  This is vital as discussing this will overcome any hurdles to applying the advice or clarify how to apply it for their situations. It is by far the best way for delegates to remember the advice from the speaker.
Physical events only: Invite one person to make a note of the points on paper, and provide them to you at the end for you to photograph and send to the Speaker Co-ordinator.

Feedback to all

Once the discussion is over, one person from each table may be invited to describe one way that the table agreed, to apply what was learned. This section is normally 5 minutes.


Please be fair and strict with time control to ensure every speaker has their agreed or equal share of air-time, and keep strictly to the schedule.  The clarification, discussion on how to apply what has been said and feedback to the rooms is highly valued by delegates and therefore should not be shortened.