Session chairs tend to come into the game late.
If your annual meeting were a tabletop game, you’d have already laid out the board, sorted and shuffled the cards, and arranged them into their designated areas (i.e., high-level planning, abstract collection, and your review process). At this point, it’s finally time to pick your pieces and put them in the starting positions. Your session chairs will then proceed forward to collect cards (abstracts) and build out their sessions.
For some annual meetings, administrators and reviewers double as session chairs. This makes management easier—they’re already integrated into the process and involved in ongoing correspondences. But many times, the session chairs are recruited separately, just a few months before the event (which could take a year or two in all to plan). In these cases, there’s a lot of catching up to do.
Here are a few tips to help you keep session chairs organized and on track:
Centralize Communication With an Integrated Platform
Communication with speakers is often a top priority for your conference management team during the session planning phase. But your chairs will need attention, too. Empower them to stay proactive and involved in the conversation with a centralized place for all parties to exchange messages and information.
Email is often the go-to for correspondence these days, but it’s hard to keep track of the lanes in your inbox. Session chairs will want to establish a dialogue in advance of the annual meeting to get contact details, find out how speakers would like to be introduced, and discuss timing (both in the schedule and within the session itself). This is easiest if all administrators, speakers, and session chairs have access to the same communication channel.
In OpenWater, we provide an integrated email functionality that organizes and keeps track of all communications within the platform throughout your conference management process. It’s also easier to access necessary speaker info when it’s available within the same platform as the conversation.
Automate Session Building (As Much As Possible)
Manual session creation is tedious work—and it’s hard to stay consistent across all sessions when each chair is operating in a vacuum. Session chairs will have fewer questions if you offer a platform that handles the heavy lifting and the details while they stick to strategic decisions.
Sometimes, session chairs will create annual meeting sessions from the ground up, and pull in proposals that relate to their topic. Other times, predetermined sessions will be delegated to your session chairs, and their first job is to populate the one they’re taking on with approved abstracts.
OpenWater can handle either style of session management. Permissions could be passed on to session chairs to add a new conference session, or you can create the sessions before recruiting the chairs and add them after the fact. Then chairs can assign abstracts to sessions directly from the approved abstracts that have come through OpenWater’s reviewer module.
We allow you to automate this process by auto-assigning abstracts to related sessions—which session chairs can further arrange and modify at will as you build your annual meeting agenda. Chairs could also flag abstracts as available to all session chairs with the “general pool” function, in case they feel the abstract is not relevant to their session or topic.
Use Mobile-Ready Session Management Tools
Session chairs will be on the go during the annual meeting, spread throughout many rooms and halls. If there are last-minute changes, or a need to communicate within your conference management team, it helps to have it all centralized on mobile. Pick a platform with a robust mobile portal for speakers, reviewers, and session chairs.
OpenWater features a responsive design that works on any device, anywhere. It also has the APIs you need to integrate it with event apps and push out agenda or session updates in real-time, right from the user portal.
When your platform is easily accessible, unified, and automated, your session chairs will be able to handle their duties with confidence and accuracy.