Islam in the Contemporary World: The Fethullah Gülen Movement in Thought and Practice
November 12-13, 2005, Herring Hall HE 100, Rice University, Houston, TX
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Presentation Details
  • Guidelines for Session Chairs, Presenters, and Discussants
    As indicated in prior correspondence, 15 minutes is allocated for both panel discussants and paper presentations. Session chairs, whose roles are discussed below, have 5 minutes each.

    We offer the following guidelines and suggestions for paper presenters, chairs, and discussants. In an international conference mixing participants from varied disciplinary and academic backgrounds, we want to be as explicit as possible on these various roles rather than assume that we all have the same implicit understanding of what the different tasks involve.

  • Session Chairs
    Session chairs play a vital role in this conference. Provided in advance with draft copies of the papers for their session, they briefly introduce the session's theme, drawing on the specific contributions of the individual papers. Chairs introduce panel participants by name and institution only. The conference program contains brief biographies of participants, so there is no need to repeat this information. The five minutes allotted to session chairs can be used in its entirety at the beginning of the session or in increments throughout the session.

    The second and equally important task of the chair is to ensure that presenters remain within their allotted time. Chairs will have large time cards indicating when presenters have 5, 2, and one minute left. A final card, "STOP," is to be taken literally. Chairs will at this point stand, thank the presenter for their contribution, and introduce the next paper. An overly long presentation by one participant will result in less time for remaining panelists. This is a situation to be avoided.

  • Paper Presenters and Their Audience
    In almost all cases presenters have prepared a written paper of 25-30 double-spaced pages. If read word for word, such a paper can easily exceed an hour and fifteen minutes.

    We mention this obvious fact to encourage you to take as much care in preparing your oral presentation as you did the written one. The oral presentation requires careful planning and a sense of proportion. The audience is both international and diverse, with diverse disciplinary backgrounds and knowledge. A lot can be said in 15 minutes, but time constraints require that you focus on a clear expression of your main points. Achieving the right balance between main points and "authority," persuading an audience that the approach and conclusions are valid, is a challenge at all stages in any public presentation. Some ideas may be too slowly developed. Others may be too hastily explained. Racing through an extemporary presentation and using terms like, "I'm already out of time?" will only convey to the audience that communicating with them in public has taken second place to other priorities.

    Fifteen minutes often means no more than 6 to 7 pages of double-spaced word-processed text (A4 or 8.5 x 11"), or approximately 1,500 words. This is only a rough guideline. Keeping in mind the goal of clarity, please do not make up for a long presentation with a rapid-fire delivery. The result may not be intelligible. Before your actual presentation, consider reading your presentation out loud or talking it through with a timer. This step often serves to refocus your attention on familiar words and phrases, encourages elimination of the familiar and obvious in favor of the original and innovative elements of your presentation. Session moderators will indicate when presenters have 5, 2 and 1 minutes left. They will stand to signal that there is no remaining time, thank you, and ask you to stop. You will want to show respect for the other presentations by not exceeding your own.

    Power point and an overhead projector can be made available with advance notice. Please make certain that any technical apparatus that you use is running prior to your session and that you know how to use it. Your 15 minutes begins at the time indicated on the schedule, not when you are ready.

  • Discussants and Discussions
    The role of the session discussant is to review the main points of the presentations and to suggest ways of making them even more effective. In most cases, discussants will be provided with the written versions of the papers with this note. What are the main points of the presentations? Do they engage central conceptual and substantive issues? Do the issues addressed in the presentation contribute to shaping the main themes of social and religious thought? Or are these main themes presented in so telegraphic a fashion that they are unclear? Does the presentation take account of recent or current developments in the presentation's field or in related ones? No discussant can answer all these questions, but discussants should aim to suggest issues that will make for the most effective general discussion. A complementary role for discussants is to point to common or underlying themes, linking the various presentations to one another.

    Participants should keep in mind that our goal is clearly and vigorously to discuss ideas and methods. We criticize ideas, not people, and participate in the conference with that goal in mind. A conference is successful, even "fun," to the extent that presentations and comments are clear, constructive, and contribute to the exploration of current issues and significant issues.
  The Boniuk Center for the Study and Advancement of Religious Tolerance at Rice University  
  A. D. Bruce Religion Center at University of Houston  
  The Institute of Interfaith Dialog