A PSA from the SMH

I don’t actually have any capacity to speak on behalf of the Society for Military History, but I would nonetheless offer the following public service announcement for those who participate in future SMH conferences (and any conference for that matter).

Conferences are useful. Conferences can even be fun. But what’s not fun is when individual presenters go far far over their allotted time. A few minutes over – not a problem. But twice as long as the allotted twenty minutes? Not cool. We all know the time limits, so let’s stick to them, shall we?

The problem is only compounded when the chair fails to do his/her duty – keep them to time. That’s what the chairs are for – to ‘ride herd’ in cowboy-speak. Let everyone know at the beginning of the session that you will be keeping presenters to their time limits. And do it. The audience will understand, even thank you. Remember as well that some people are trying to jump from panel to panel to hear particular papers – going far over time really screws that up.

But what makes it even worse is when the chair, who has failed to do his/her duty and leave any time at all for questions at the end, then proceeds to read his/her own commentary well into the break between sessions. Not cool.

One of the reasons we attend panels is to get some sort of interaction with the presenters. Please, please, please – let’s try to keep to the time limits, and be ready to get cut off. Every year conference organizers make these expectations clear to presenters and chairs/commentators, but we still seem to have difficulty following through.

This public service announcement brought to you by a panel attendee.

3 thoughts on “A PSA from the SMH

  1. Bravo! I am amazed at how many people — including a high proportion of experienced historians — break that rule. This isn’t rocket science, folks. A page of double-spaced text takes about 2 minutes to read. Stick to that guideline, and rehearse.

  2. Pingback: Keeping in Time, and other Conference Basics | Skulking in Holes and Corners

  3. As Executive Director I do have authority to speak on behalf of SMH. I totally agree with Jamel Ostwald’s observations. I welcome ideas on how SMH can make moderators, speakers and commentators and attendees adhere to the clearly established rules of their functions and making effective use of the time given to each session. Moderators need to provide clear, brief introductions of each panel member and to enforce presentation times to allow for comments and participation by the audience. Moderators are not to give comments; commentators are to comment on the presentations, not give a discussion of their own work! Attendees are to ask questions not make speeches. Every year I am dismayed at sessions that do not follow the rules and ill serve the presenters and those attending. While I have authority; I do not have an answer!

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