CPSC 504: Some Guidelines for Speakers and Discussion Leaders.

                   Laks V.S. Lakshmanan, September 2011.



Questions may arise about the role of the discussion leader (DL) as well as about the difference between a DL and a presenter. Here are some bullets that you should find helpful.


·       Do not be overly concerned about not getting your presentation “right” or not getting it as analytically evaluative or critical as possible on your first paper presentation. I know for some of you, this may be your first technical talk. I am willing to treat the first talk as a “warmup” talk and place more weight on your remaining talks and DL stints. 
·       The main distinction between a presenter and a DL is this:
oThink of DL acting as a "session chairperson" at a conference, so there is a bit of administrative work such as managing time, deciding whether to admit the next question, how many questions to admit based on time, when to close the session, etc. The DL will also clock the speaker and make sure the speaker doesn’t run over his/her allotted time (20 minutes per talk). 
oUnlike conference session chairperson, DL can answer questions and/or rephrase answers from the presenter to an audience question that the asker may not understand. So, the presenter gets the first shot at answering every question, after which it falls on the DL to elaborate if needed, and then to the audience - {asker}.  
oThe DL should also keep notes (I'd strongly advise this) on questions and answers during the session.
oS/he should identify related questions regardless of whether they are chronologically next to each other and point that out to the audience. Additionally, they should point out what is common and/or how things are related. 
oS/he should mediate between the presenter and the asker, if need be, to resolve unresolved issues.
oFinally, the DL should email me a summary of the questions/answers during the session they DL'ed. This is where the notes mentioned earlier would come in handy. The summary can be in bullet form.
·       How many questions should you send me on the papers you read and prepare questions on? 
oI wouldn’t put a hard lower/upper bound on the #questions I want people to send me. It can vary between papers. Something like 3-5 sounds appropriate, depending on the depth, detail of the questions and the anticipated effort involved in answering them. 
·       Any tips on giving good presentations? 
oRemember, giving good (technical) talks is an art and takes time and much practice. While a few general tips are available from many resources (here is one, thanks to Stephen Scott, which includes a collection of pointers to a few other resources). This also includes resources for tips on good technical writing, which will come in handy to you later. Whatever tips you pick up – from the above resource or elsewhere – you must make sure to adapt it to the specific context. E.g., tips for job talks should not be applied “as is” when giving a presentation on someone else’s paper, and instead must be adjusted appropriately. 
·       Any tips on writing good reports/papers? 
oYou don’t need this just yet, but when the time comes, do check in on the above resource. It does cover good technical writing as much as it covers giving good talks.