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Session Formats Explained


A session is a block of time, typically 90 minutes, during which discussion centers on a particular topic. A thematic session refers to a session that is specifically oriented toward the conference theme.
Sessions and thematic sessions may utilize a variety of formats. IAIA19 session formats include:

Caravan:  Each of the 6 speakers is assigned a station set up in the meeting room. Each speaker has 10 minutes’ presentation time. Session attendees will be organized into 6 groups and will have the opportunity to visit 4 out of the 6 stations in turn. Attendees will sit or stand in U-shape around a board where the presenter has slides on display. Each presenter will repeat his/her presentations four times, to four different groups of attendees, until attendants have visited four stations.

Debate:  A debate takes place between two or more opponents who are experts in their fields as well as being entertaining presenters. The debate topic is clearly defined in terms of a question, with one side presenting the affirmative case and the other the negative case.

Fishbowl:  Many variations exist; one example is 4-5 chairs are arranged in an inner circle. This is the fishbowl. The remaining chairs are arranged in concentric circles outside the fishbowl. A few participants are selected to fill the fishbowl, while the rest of the group sit on the chairs outside the fishbowl. One chair is left empty. The moderator introduces the topic and the participants start discussion. The audience outside the fishbowl listen. Any member of the audience can, at any time, occupy the empty chair. When this happens, an existing member of the fishbowl must voluntarily leave the fishbowl and free a chair.

Panel discussion:  In a panel, the speakers are invited. The chair introduces each speaker and puts each talk in perspective. Each speaker gives a brief (10-15 minutes) prepared presentation, usually presenting a different view or experience on the topic, followed by debate between the speakers and questions from the audience facilitated by the chair.

Paper session:  In a paper session, authors orally present the findings of a prepared paper or project. A paper session typically allows 4-5 presentations of 15-20 minutes each, including time for specific questions. Ideally, the chair allocates time for general questions and open discussion following the presentations.

Pecha Kucha: Pecha Kucha is a presentation methodology in which 20 slides are shown for 20 seconds each (six minutes and 40 seconds in total). This format allows for concise and fast presentations with more than typical discussion time following the presentation.

Theme forum:  Smaller than plenaries and larger than concurrent sessions, theme forums include “cut-above” presentations and discussions which are intended to be integrative in nature, i.e., deal with cross-cutting issues relevant to the many specialties of impact assessment, bring together on a particular topic the various aspects of impact assessment and examine how those aspects apply to different sectors and issues, engage with the conference theme, be relevant to our international audience, and be innovative in format.

Wananga:  In the Māori language, this term refers to a “forum,“ in the sense of a discussion to arrive at a deeper understanding.

Workshop:  In a workshop, the topic is very specific and often seeks to resolve a defined problem, often through a combination of 2-3 short paper presentations and active discussion.