Guidelines for Presiding Officers and Chairs

If you are a presiding officer for a PAMLA standing, special, or allied session, you will likely serve as chair of the session as well. And your chair duties are very important duties indeed (as chair at the conference you will make sure every panelist is properly introduced and keeps to their allotted time, and you will set a tone of politeness and collegiality. You will moderate the discussion, likely asking thoughtful questions to get the discussion started).

Primary Tasks:

As a presiding officer (PO), duties in chronological order might include:

  • POs should post CFPs and send out emails to encourage people to propose to their session; the more you do to advertise your session, the better off you will be when the time comes to review proposals;
  • POs are responsible for reading and reviewing the proposals, deciding which are strong enough to merit an invitation, and which are not;
  • Once the deadline for proposals has passed, POs can invite their top three or four proposals via our online system. POs can also decline the weakest proposals (the ones that they would not want to invite no matter what). You will also likely stall with some backup proposals (as some of your invitees may agreed to join other sessions rather than yours). And if any proposals are interesting, but not quite on topic, you can mark those as recommended for rerouting;
  • The initial proposal review period is May 1-8. Please try to finish reviewing, inviting, declining, etc. by May 6. On May 9, proposers will find out whether they’ve been invited or not;
  • Should any PO receive enough strong proposals to merit a second session, they should communicate that desire for a second session to PAMLA Executive Director, Craig Svonkin (both via the online split session request button, and via an email);
  • POs need to stay in contact with Craig Svonkin, PAMLA Executive Director, responding to his emails. Also, if POs have a question or problem, PAMLA is here to help out: 626-354-7526 or [email protected]
  • If any PO needs more paper proposals after April 30, please let PAMLA Executive Director Craig Svonkin know immediately, and we will put your session on the extended deadline list (giving potential panelists more time to propose);
  • Should your invitees not immediately accept the invitation to join your session, you should send polite email invitation reminders;
  • Should one of your invitees not accept your invitation, then you can move to your waiting list and invite a strong proposal from that backup group; please do not, however, invite a weak or terribly flawed proposal just to fill a session (instead, speak to Executive Director Craig Svonkin about putting your session on the extended deadline list, so you can receive more strong proposals);
  • POs form a complete session (or two if an additional session is approved), and put the panelists into desired presentation order;
  • POs help with proofreading panelists’ titles, abstracts, and bios;
  • POs stay in communication contact with panelists, making sure they know what is expected of them, how much time they will have to present, etc.;
  • POs must let PAMLA Executive Director Craig Svonkin know if anyone cancels at any time: this is very important! ([email protected] and/or 626-354-7526);
  • POs introduce the panelists briefly at the conference session, and help them to keep to their time limit. POs also help to make sure there is a productive and friendly discussion after all panelists have presented (moderating a thoughtful, productive discussion for at least 15 to 20 minutes at the conclusion of your session is a very important part of your job as a chair);
  • If a PO is in charge of a standing (general) session rather than a special session, they must conduct an election at the conclusion of the session for next year’s presiding officer (for our 2025 PAMLA conference in San Francisco);
  • Following the conference, POs email PAMLA Information Director Sonia Christensen ([email protected]) a presiding officer’s report, with info about any last minute no-shows or cancellations, how many were there in total for each session, and, if your session is a standing session, who was elected to be the new presiding officer for 2025.

General Policies:

  • Session types are listed here;
  • One can only chair two sessions total, or present one traditional paper and chair one session. Should you end up with more than one session, you will work with PAMLA Executive Director Craig Svonkin to find chairs for those additional sessions;
  • In addition to delivering one paper as part of a traditional panel, members may also present on a Roundtable, as part of a Workshop, or as part of a Creative session or Special Event. Conference participants may typically present twice, at most, at the conference (once in a traditional panel, and once in a creative format session; or twice in creative format sessions). To request an exception to this rule, please contact Executive Director Craig Svonkin at [email protected];
  • Roundtables, workshops, and other alternative formats are available, and we encourage our members to explore these creative session formats:
  • To access the call for papers, your sessions and submissions, please log into
  • Once your session has been accepted, you must update (pay) your PAMLA membership;
  • Chairs typically may not present a paper in their own session. To request an exception to this rule, please contact Executive Director Craig Svonkin at [email protected];
  • PAMLA policy is to not allow more than two people from the same institution in a session (including the session chair). Contact Executive Director Svonkin to request an exception;
  • Presiding Officers and Chairs must remain in timely contact with Executive Director Craig Svonkin. So please check your email regularly;
  • We do not accept scheduling requests, except for religious reasons (please send religious schedule requests to Craig Svonkin far in advance of the conference). This means that panels might be scheduled for any time on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, or on Sunday until approximately 3 pm. If you do have a religious scheduling need, please let Craig Svonkin know right away;
  • If you have a problem, please contact Executive Director Craig Svonkin right away: [email protected] or 626-354-7526 (texts or calls are the best way to get a quick response);
  • Presiding officers and chairs are responsible for ensuring that all scheduled panelists know where and when their session is and how much time they will have to present;
  • Chairs/presiding officers must attend the conference in-person, as must all panelists. Should you not be able to attend, please let Executive Director Craig Svonkin know right away. Should you have to cancel, the session, especially if it already has panelists or potential panelists, will go on with a new presiding officer;
  • Please use MLA formatting for all titles, abstracts and descriptions.

Publicizing Sessions:

  • To propose a paper, scholars will need to create a user account and then they’ll be able to submit a proposal via the PAMLA CFP page (proposing to your session there);
  • Paper proposals are due by April 30, 2024;
  • If you have enough proposals, please let Craig Svonkin know that you want your session closed/hidden from view after April 30: [email protected];
  • If you still need more strong proposals after April 30, please let Craig Svonkin know right away, and email potential proposers to encourage them to propose, post calls on CFP pages and social media pages, etc. It sometimes takes some work to form a full session, but if you work at it, the session almost always is formed. There will be an extended deadline period for sessions in need of more strong proposals;
  • Note: When advertising your session, include the unique URL for your session so potential participants will know where to submit their abstract online (the unique URL can be found in your acceptance email for your session). Do not ask proposers to send you their proposal. They will need to propose via the PAMLA CFP system.

Reviewing Paper Submissions:

  • Log in to to review paper proposals;
  • The online system will allow you to change any proposals to “invited” or “declined” or “under consideration” or “recommended for rerouting.” If you change a paper’s status to invited, they will receive word of the invitation after May 9, when  the “Sleeping Beauty” period of hidden results is over;
  • To review submissions, click “Manage” next to your session’s title. You will then be able to see a list of all abstracts submitted to your session. By clicking on View next to a proposal, you will be able to read the proposal and then change the proposal’s Approval Status from Not Yet Reviewed to Invited, Declined, Recommended for Rerouting, or Under Consideration (remember to click save);
  • You may not invite more than three or four panelists to join your panel session, and no more than eight or nine to join a roundtable or Creative session or special event;
  • Should you wish to change your session format, please contact Executive Director Craig Svonkin at [email protected];
  • If you’ve received enough strong paper proposals to request a split session (meaning you will preside over two separate sessions), mark your session as “requesting a split session.” Mark extra proposals as “Under Consideration” and contact Craig at [email protected] or 626-354-7526; should the Executive Director decide you have sufficient strong proposals to justify a second session, and should there be space for another session, your split session request will be approved;
  • Please do not invite weak proposals, even if you are worried about having enough proposals for a full session (at least three papers is a full session). As presiding officer, it is your job to make sure the quality of the papers in your session is high. While you might think that having one very weak paper might be acceptable, you won’t be doing anyone a favor to invite a proposal that isn’t grounded in the existing scholarship, isn’t interesting, or isn’t clear or well-written enough to be ready for prime time;
  • Should you not have enough strong proposals to create a full session, don’t panic. We will have an extended deadline period after May 9 for the sessions still in need of more strong proposals. Contact Craig Svonkin if you wish your session to be added to that extended deadline list;
  • When you’ve received enough papers to close your sessions, email Craig as soon as possible so he can close your session. Sessions will remain open to proposals until you let Craig know you’d like your session to be closed/hidden: [email protected];

Finalizing Sessions:

  • Sessions are not finalized until all invited presenters have confirmed participation (changing their “invited” status to “accepted”), and the PO has chosen the presentation order for all of their confirmed panelists. A presiding officer’s PAMLA account will alert them to whether a presenter is already committed to another session of the same type (which is not allowed—PAMLA participants may only deliver one traditional paper, and then participate in one alternative-format session);
  • Please put panelists into your desired presentation order once you have all of your panelists marked as confirmed or declined (click on the order number in the box to the right of each confirmed panelist, and choose drop down number of choice);
  • Please wait until you have formed your session(s) to decline strong abstracts that you marked as “Under Consideration,” so as to retain proposals you may need for your session. You can also, should you really like a back-up proposal you cannot invite, mark it as “recommended for rerouting”;
  • If any of your extra proposals are quite strong, you can change their status to “Recommended for Rerouting,” and indicate some other possible place where the PAMLA team might be able to reroute that paper.

Changing/Canceling Sessions:

  • Requests to withdraw a session should be communicated promptly to Executive Director at [email protected];
  • If you withdraw as presiding officer, your panel may continue without you with a new presiding officer;
  • Any requests to change a session format will be considered (for example, from a Paper Panel to a Creative session or a Roundtable or Workshop or Seminar). Please email Executive Director at [email protected] for any questions about session format changes or for format requests;
  • To find out more about PAMLA’s creative session formats, such as Workshops, Creative sessions, and Roundtables, see our Session Formats list.

At the Conference:

  • During the session, the chair, who is usually but not always the PO, will introduce panelists (you may read the bio provided by panelists with their paper submissions, or ask them ahead of time for a brief bio), politely keep panelists to the agreed upon time limit, reserve fifteen or twenty minutes at the end of the session for questions and discussion, and moderate the session’s discussion; these are a very important part of your presiding officer duties; please take these seriously;
  • PAMLA sessions are typically 90 minutes long (although we may have some longer or shorter sessions). If you have three panelists, each may present for approximately 20 minutes. If you have four panelists, it is generally a good idea to ask them to keep to approximately 16 minutes. If you are running a session with more participants, try to divide the time equally;
  • If the session is a General/Standing session, the presiding officer must conduct an election for the presiding officer for the next year’s conference (2025 in San Francisco) at the conclusion of the session, and inform the Executive Director of the results. Any current PAMLA member with expertise in the area may volunteer and run for the presiding officer position. Ideally, a presiding officer for a standing session should have their PhD, or be at least ABD in a PhD program;
  • The presiding officer must report after the conference to PAMLA’s Information Director Sonia Christensen ( about the session: how many people were there for the session(s) in total, were there any late cancelations or no-shows (and if so who), and who was elected to be next year’s presiding officer if the session is a General/Standing session.

Key Dates:

  • Special session proposals are still welcome (but please try to submit your special session proposal as soon as possible).
  • Paper proposals can be submitted until April 30
  • Presiding officers must review, invite, or decline proposals from May 1 through May 6. After May 6, there is a period of a few days when your invitations and declines will remain secret. Then, on May 9, there will be a big “reveal,” and presenters will be able to see if their papers have been accepted, declined, or are under review (proposals recommended for rerouting will be seen as under review by proposers; please only reroute strong proposals that are not right for your panel or that you don’t have room for). Presiding officers may also mark papers as “Under Review”;
  • Do not decline strong proposals until you have received confirmations from invited proposers that they will be joining your session, and you have formed a full session. (People often propose to multiple sessions, and so you may invite people who will end up accepting other invitations.);
  • Once invited, proposers can accept or decline an invitation to present in a panel. Presenters must accept or decline using the PAMLA ballast system ( If a participant does not accept or decline in a timely fashion, please email them politely;
  • PAMLA membership is due for presiding officers as soon as they are informed that their session has been approved; membership is due for all conference participants by July 1, 2024 (or when accepted to a session);
  • After August 18, those who haven’t paid their 2024 membership will be removed from the program;
  • Conference fees are due once a panelist has been accepted to a session, and must be paid by September 5 at the very latest;
  • For those who pay their conference fees after July 31, there will be a late fee charged;
  • Conference cancellations will not receive full reimbursements after September 1, 2024.

Audiovisual Requests and Wireless Internet

  • Audiovisual equipment costs have skyrocketed. So, please encourage your panelists not to request AV unless they need it for their presentation;
  • Audio-visual technology requests submitted after June 1, 2024 may not be considered;
  • Audiovisual equipment available for sessions includes projectors, projector screens, cables, audio cables, and audio speakers;
  • Presenters must provide their own computers or other devices that can be connected to the projector. If you have a laptop or other device that requires an adapter, please bring that adapter to the conference with you;
  • Wireless internet will be available at the annual conference in 2024. But it is impossible to predict how well the wireless internet will work. So, if you or a panelist needs wireless, it would be wise to download any pages or videos ahead of time to your computer.


  • PAMLA does not allow papers to be read in absentia, whether it be virtually, online, or by other means;
  • Please email [email protected] and [email protected] as soon as possible should anyone cancel;
  • If presiding officers or chairs themselves are not able to attend, it is their responsibility to contact Craig Svonkin immediately ([email protected] or 626-354-7526 if not well before the conference), and, if needed or possible, help find someone else to chair the session. Should a presiding officer have to cancel, their session will continue on without their participation. We do not generally cancel sessions, as long as people have already committed to attending and presenting;
  • Conference registration fees may be refunded if the conference participant notifies PAMLA Executive Director at [email protected] of their need to withdraw from the program by September 1. Membership fees are non-refundable.


If you have any questions, ideas, or concerns regarding presiding officer or session chair guidelines or the PAMLA conference in general, do not hesitate to contact PAMLA’s Information Director Sonia Christensen ([email protected]), or Executive Director Craig Svonkin ([email protected] or 626-354-7526). They are happy to help and offer advice.