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Information for Chairs

Information for a Session Chair

Session chairs typically have three responsibilities: finding discussants for the papers in the session (or deciding that no discussants are necessary), ensuring that papers are circulated to discussants and other session participants in a timely fashion, and keeping the session running on time.

Finding discussants: Sessions in different fields often run in different ways.  Some sessions have assigned discussants; others do not.  If your session organizer has made arrangements directly with you regarding discussants, etc, for your session, please refer to your session organizer's outline. If discussants have not been assigned to your session, you are welcome to line up discussants if you wish.  A list of possible discussants is available in early April. If your session does not have discussants, then more time can be allocated to the presentation of the papers in the session and to questions/discussion from the floor.

Ensuring papers are circulated in a timely fashion: every person who has a paper accepted for the CEA meetings agrees to circulate their paper to other participants in their session, and their discussant, at least two weeks prior to the beginning of the conference. They are also warned that failure to do so may lead to their paper being withdrawn from the program. Please remind presenters of their responsibilities to their discussants. If, in your opinion, a presenter should be withdrawn from the program because they have not circulated their paper on time, please inform the program assistant at

Contact information for the participants in your sessions will be available in your personal profile. 

Keeping the session running on time: chairs have some latitude in allocating time but as a default, for a typical 3-paper session, each presenter should be given 18 minutes for the presentation, followed by 5 minutes for the formal discussant, with the remaining time for audience comments and questions. Sessions without formal discussants should aim for 20 minute presentations with the remaining time for audience comments and questions. However you choose to allocate time in your session, please ensure that time is allocated to individual paper presentations and paper discussions in an equal and fair manner, and that papers should be delivered in the sequence in which they appear in the conference program. For sessions with more papers, it is particularly important that the chair make clear to presenters and discussants what the time allocations are.

The session chair will keep time and will signal to the presenters how much time is left at appropriate points. (See the signal paddles below.) If a speaker extends a presentation for more than 2 minutes past the mark, the chair is allowed to cut off a speaker and proceed to the discussant or next presentation.

Courtesy of William Robson of the C.D. Howe Institute, below are images of the two sides of two paddles (paper glued on signboard) that you may use if you wish.

5-minute sign

3-minute sign

1-minute sign

time-is-up sign


Note on PowerPoint: The rooms will have facilities for computer-assisted presentations, using PowerPoint or PDF. Presenters are encouraged to use this technology to make their presentations. To make this run smoothly, they have been asked to:

  1. Send the file of their presentation to you, as the chair, at least one week before the conference, so that you have the option of loading all of the files for the session ahead of time onto your memory key;
  2. Present themselves in the conference room at least 10 minutes before the start time;
  3. Bring their presentation on a memory key, in addition to having sent it to their session chair.

A number of computer-literate students will patrol the conference areas to act as first line support. You should arrange to arrive at the conference room well in advance yourself in order to make sure that everything is ready for the conference to begin on time and run smoothly.