Leading Good Discussions

September 8, 2014 | by Nick Snead

Presentation - mic pictI think everyone has experienced—at least once—a very awkward conference in which the session chair didn't have control of the discussion, was shockingly unprepared, or was unprofessional. So what does it take to lead a good discussion?{C}

Dr. Yuki Tomari was probably the best scientific session chair I have ever witnessed. The way he primed the audience at the RNA Society meeting in Kyoto in 2011 was amazing. His preparation was very apparent and impressive; he read literature from each of his speakers in order to get the gist of their talk. Prior to each talk, he summarized the info he gathered into one or two slides that he presented rather than merely explaining titles and accolades at the podium. It was concise and didn’t detract from the thunder that the speakers would present themselves.

I've been following Dr. Kamens on LinkedIn after connecting with her after she gave a webinar on BioCareers about PhD mentor selection. Here, Dr. Kamens gives her take on how to lead a great panel discussion.

While some of the suggestions in Dr. Kamens’ talk are specific for panel discussions, I think some of them are universal, and can be relevant for students hosting an LEL, or preparing for Qual I or Qual II. Trying to incorporate these sorts of suggestions takes a lot of preparation, but it is this sort of comprehensive rigor that will show great results.

What about you? Any notable experiences?

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