skip to Main Content

Chair Guidelines

Chair Guidelines

How to be a great panel Chair

A Chair is the driver behind a great panel. We’ve all sat in sessions run by an unprepared Chair – so we know what that looks like. What are the ingredients for making sure you are a great panel Chair?  A great Chair can do much to make a session go smoothly by keeping it on running on time, the audience engaged, and the speakers on target. To follow are some tips for running an awesome panel at SVRI Forum. Moderating a good panel is all about preparation.

In advance of the Forum

To follow are some tips for ensuring you are a great panel chair.

  • The SVRI will introduce you to your panellists. Once we have done so, follow up with an introductory email introducing yourself to the speakers in your session.
  • Read through the abstracts for each presentation in your panel to familiarize yourself with the overall theme of the panel and the focus of each presentation. These will be sent to you in advance of the Forum.
  • Request speakers to send you short bios so you can introduce them. Maybe even practice introducing your speakers, pronouncing their names in your hotel room.
  • Discuss with speakers via email how best to structure the session.
  • Very importantly, agree with presenters on the presentation length and Q&A time available. Discuss if you should allow for question time at the end of each presentation or hold all questions until after all presentations have been delivered? Due to time limitations, we would suggest that for parallel sessions you should hold all questions until after the last presentation.

At the Forum

Things to do at the Forum:

  • Make sure all speakers have uploaded their presentations, equipment is working, and you are all ready to go.
  • Arrange to meet presenters in the room 10 minutes before the session starts to discuss final arrangements
  • Check with presenters how to pronounce their names (if you have not met before and are unsure of how to pronounce their names).

Managing the panel

  • To open the session, briefly introduce yourself, the speakers, the overall topic and how all the session will be structured. For example:
    • introduce yourself and welcome the audience, speakers and session topic;
    • indicate any changes in the panel from the printed programme;
    • individually introduce each speaker/presentation and hand over to the speaker;
    • Q&A – invite the audience and panel members to ask questions and engage with the presenters;
    • closing – make some final remarks and give a vote of thanks to speakers and audience.
  • When you introduce each speaker, give their name, institutional affiliation and the topic of their presentation. Rather than just reading the title of the presentation think about how you can introduce each presentation in your own words.
  • Make sure your session starts on time. SVRI Forum is a packed programme filled with wonderful presentations that presenters have worked hard – please ensure every presenter receives their fair time allocation.
  • Presenting is stressful for many of us. Try make your panel members feel at ease. If you are calm will help the presenters feel calm.

Be strict with time!

  • Time management is the most important role of the Chair. You have all agreed in advance the length of time each speaker has for their presentation. Don’t let speakers go overtime, as this reduces the time available for subsequent speakers.
  • Give speakers 5-, 3-, and 1-minute warnings. If falling behind schedule shorten your introductions to subsequent speakers and ask them to add to your introductions as appropriate; they can do if faster, more accurately, and they won’t be long-winded since it cuts into their presentation time. This may be easier if you remember that it is rude for a speaker to steal time from other presenters.
  • Consider holding questions for the end of all presentations.
  • Although you must carefully manage time, there may be a need for flexibility as well. Not everything runs to schedule. Be prepared to reduce presentation length should the session start late or increase time for question and answers or presentations should more time for the panel come available.

After the last presentation

  • Thank all the speakers and open the session for questions and answers.
  • Prepare one or two questions yourself in case there are no questions from the floor.
  • Be ready to intervene if either a questioner or speaker becomes long-winded or an in-depth discussion/argument erupts; politely insist they voice their question and / or take up the discussion during the break.


  • Briefly summarise the main points emerging from the discussion.
  • Thank all presenters once again for their contribution and thank the audience for their participation.
  • And most importantly enjoy the experience!

Sponsorship and Partnership Opportunities

If you would like to partner with the SVRI Forum 2024, please contact us for more on sponsorship and partnership opportunities.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Back To Top