- Creating an Inclusive Conference Session
- Before the Session
- At the Beginning of the Session
- During the Session
- References & Further Reading
Thank you for your efforts to help make ICMB XI a great experience! Your role as a moderator is crucial to ensure each session runs smoothly, presenters have a smooth, easy experience, and everyone gets the best opportunity to learn and share their research.
As the moderator, you have a responsibility to the presenters and to the audience to ensure everyone's time and experience is respected, and that everyone is able to fully participate.
Meanwhile, we have a responsibility to ensure that service in leadership roles is accessible to everyone, as well. If you need any accommodations for moderating, please contact us as soon as possible.
You should understand your own implicit bias before undertaking any type of public leadership role. If this concept is unfamiliar to you, a good place to start reading is "Inclusive Scientific Meetings, Where to Start" (Pendergrass et al., 2019).
Creating an Inclusive Conference Session
The prevalence of implicit biases tends to marginalize underrepresented groups in fields such as STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), which have traditionally been dominated by people from privileged identities: white, cisgender, heterosexual men. Failure to acknowledge implicit biases will result in a meeting environment where underrepresented groups will continue to be marginalized and majority groups will continue to dominate.
Equity is about access and power; whoever has the floor has the power. Listening is as important as speaking, and session organizers can institute appropriate pauses and wait for others to process before sharing. For example, slow responses may be a result of linguistic or cultural differences, which can be accommodated through facilitation approaches that are aware and responsive to these differences.
Clearly note time constraints and stick to them. More senior and established speakers (enabled by moderators) might push their time limits, often at the expense of the time allotted to speakers earlier in their careers.
Question & Answer Time
Moderators of question and answer (Q&A) sessions play an important role in making sure discussions aren't dominated by a small number of vocal participants. Moderate Q&A sessions with awareness of inclusion to make sure more junior and less vocal attendees are able to participate.
Here are some ways to promote greater inclusivity in the Q&A portions of your session:
- Take a few questions at a time, ensuring there are questions from a diversity of people (participants from different genders, younger audience members, members of an underrepresented group, etc.)
- If you are taking only one question at a time, try starting with a woman, an early career professional, or a member of an underrepresented group.
- Research shows that men are more likely to ask a question during Q&As; however, this changes if the first question is asked by a woman (Carter et al. 2018).
- Intentionally elicit multiple perspectives from multiple types of meeting participants.
- Invite those who may not speak right away to share their views or ask questions.
Before the Session
- Check that the microphone works, and familiarize yourself with how to adjust its placement to suit individual speakers.
- Check that there is a chair available for the presenter.
- Ensure the wheelchair access space is available and free of debris.
- Review accommodation requests and ensure that you can provide each one.
- Reserve seats at the front of the room for deaf and hard of hearing audience members, and leave some spaces open for wheelchair users.
- Tell every presenter in your session that they must use the microphone. Offer them time before the session to practice using the microphone, if desired.
- Ask presenters for correct pronunciation of their names and their pronouns.
At the Beginning of the Session
- Announce that all speakers should use the microphone and point out the wheelchair and/or hearing seats.
- Announce that audience members should indicate they have a question by raising their hand, or by asking their neighbor to raise their hand.
During the Session
- Announce your presenters, their affiliations, and presentation titles.
- Every presenter must use the microphone. Be available to quickly help adjust the microphone between presenters, so that it is placed appropriately for each speaker.
- Monitor time limits and provide speakers with a way to know when their time is up.
- Repeat audience member questions into a microphone so that everyone can hear the questions asked.
References & Further Reading
Many thanks to the creators of these guides and studies, upon which we relied heavily while creating this document.
Carter AJ, Croft A, Lukas D, Sandstrom GM (2018) Women's visibility in academic seminars: Women ask fewer questions than men. PLoS ONE 13(9): e0202743.
Charutard A, Hann, C. (2019) Best Practice Guide: Developing inclusive conferences. REACH University of Oxford School of Geography and the Environment.
Pendergrass A, et al. (2019). Inclusive Scientific Meetings, Where to Start. 500 Women Scientists.
Serrato Marks G (2018) How to Make Professional Conferences More Accessible for Disabled People: Guidance from Actual Disabled Scientists. The Equation. Union of Concerned Scientists.
Umstead A, Wiener D (2012) Edited 2018 by Pollack K, Wiener D. A guide to planning inclusive events seminars and activities at Syracuse University. Syracuse University Disability Cultural Center.