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HOW TO ORGANIZE A SUCCESSFUL TECHNICAL SESSION

Handy Tips on How to Organize a Successful GSA Technical Session or Symposium

1.

Pick a topic that is specialized, but not TOO specialized. If your topic is still too specialized after thinking about it you can expand it by: 1) adding a somewhat similar topic or topics to the title, combing the topics with “and,” as in “stratigraphy, sedimentology, and paleontology of the Appalachian Basin," or, 2) you can add to the title, “and other topics in [pick a word] geology.”
Your topic should, of course, be a topic you know something about. And it goes without saying that you should have a topic in mind for your own abstract for your session.

2.

Consider tying your topic to something else at the conference, especially a field trip, but also a workshop or other event. That will help to fill both your session and the field trip or workshop.

3.

Strongly consider asking someone to be a co-chair of your session. Be sure to explain to that person that you expect them to submit an abstract of their own to your session (with your abstract that makes two!), and that you expect her or him to recruit several other speakers. Having a co-chair is highly recommended, not only to help build the session, but also to help introduce speakers, etc. You never know when there could be a snafu that requires a second person.

4.

Ask everybody you know who works on the topic you have chosen to give a talk at the session. You can call them on the phone, e-mail them, write them a snail-mail letter, go visit them, etc. Such personal contact is, by far, the best way to fill a session. People will not generally volunteer to give a talk in a specialized session just because it is on the conference list of sessions. Building a successful session takes work but if you pace yourself it is very doable.

5.

Ask everybody you ask if they know of anyone else who may be interested in submitting a talk. This can be a great source of leads.

6.

Ask students to participate.

7.

Go to other conferences, field trips, geological meetings, etc., and ask individuals with an interest in your topic to give a talk in your session. You can also invite non-geologists who have something new to say about your topic.

8.

Post a call for papers wherever you can, especially on relevant blogs, websites, and in discipline-related newsletters. Paleontology-related sessions, for instance, could utilize PaleoNet. Be sure to get your session description, deadlines for abstract submittals and registration, etc., noted on relevant blogs, websites, newsletters, etc.

9.

If your session topic is related to the subject of any of GSA’s Divisions, write, as soon as possible, to the Division chair and ask the Division to sponsor and advertise your session in their newsletters, e-mails to members of the Division, etc. Once you get official sponsorship be sure that this is noted in the conference listings for your session.

10.

If you are an expert on a topic, it is likely that people will e-mail, call you, or visit you concerning your area of expertise. Ask these people if they might want to give a talk at your session. They may be delighted to receive such a request.

11.

Most of the people you contact will know they will still have to pay the conference fee, etc., but it is a good idea to let everybody know this early to avoid any possible hard feelings later. It is a good idea to remind everybody who has promised you to submit an abstract to actually submit an abstract. You should also keep them cognizant of all relevant deadlines, including the earlier registration deadline to save them money.

12.

It is a good idea to stay in regular contact with the technical program chair(s).

13.

Finally, it is a nice idea to send each speaker a thank-you note after the conference.