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Guidelines for Annual Meeting Participants

As you prepare for your session in Philadelphia, please keep in mind these standards of academic etiquette as well as the practices of this conference.


  • Registration and membership. All participants must be current members of the RSA. Current membership allows you to register at the member rate. Registration pays for the costs of organizing and running the meeting, and everyone must register in order to participate and to attend sessions.

  • Contacting your panel members. You can contact members of your panel by doing a Member Search from the Membership menu of this site (sign in to the site first: RSA member contact information is only made available to other members).

Panel Participant Guidelines

For Speakers

  • Commitment to attend; no third-party readers. Should illness or another emergency leave you unable to attend the meeting, please notify both the RSA office and your session chair. Please do not ask a session chair or other substitute to read your paper for you. Reading in absentia (whether by video-conferencing or presentation by surrogates) is not permitted. The RSA wants to encourage discussion and dialogue among panelists and attendees, and this is not possible if the author of a paper is not present. Speakers who fail to register and fail to show up at the conference to give their papers will be barred from speaking at the next year’s conference.

  • Adherence to time limits. Please be mindful of the time constraints as you plan your talk and your session. Most sessions have either three 20-minute papers or four 15-minute papers. Presenters deserve equal time, and presentation time per session should total one hour to allow for a concluding discussion.

  • Advance copy of your paper for chair and/or respondent. Please send a copy of your paper to your chair well in advance, even if there is no respondent or commentator. Your chair needs to know about the length of your presentation; more importantly, s/he needs to put some questions together to ensure a good discussion. If there is a respondent, it is doubly important to provide him or her with adequate time to compose thoughtful comments. 

For Chairs

Before the conference:

  • Contact your presenters well in advance and give them a date by which they should send you their papers. You may also want to ask them for a short bio or CV so that you can introduce them. If you don't have the presenters' contact information, use the Member Search from the Membership menu of this site (sign in to RSA first).

  • Should someone on your panel cancel, please inform the RSA office.

  • Assemble a few questions in advance to ask each presenter, to start off discussion or balance it as it proceeds.

At the session:

  • Be sure to inform all speakers of how you plan to introduce them, and whether the discussion of all papers will occur after all presentations (as is more common), or whether you will take questions at the end of each paper separately.

  • Have a plan in place for keeping speakers to time limits, and inform your speakers of the plan before the session begins. 

  • Moderate the discussion.

After the session:

  • Please report to the RSA staff any problems or difficulties, including (but not restricted to) malfunctioning equipment, overcrowded (or cavernous) rooms, and above all the failure of a participant to appear. 

For Respondents

  • Be sure you know how much time is to be allotted to your remarks, so that you can keep to that limit.

Roundtable Participant Guidelines

Roundtables have a variety of formats and goals, but a roundtable is not a set of mini-papers. Rather, roundtable discussants will talk with each other and with the audience about a common topic on which they have diverse experience or perspectives. A successful roundtable requires thoughtful planning and good communication on the part of the organizer. 

For organizers and chairs

Before the conference:

  • Organizing your roundtable: assess your goals and your audience. Your abstract should make clear what those who attend can expect to carry away.

  • Setting up your participants: although many research sessions are organized by posting a call for papers on a general theme and allowing members to contact the organizer, most roundtable participants are invited directly by the organizer because of their particular expertise or experience. Discussants must hear clearly from you what you expect of them and what the goals of the session will be. 

  • In preparation, remind your discussants of their role, the identity of their fellow discussants, and the format. Encourage them to come up with a question for at least one of their fellow panelists.

  • Should someone on your panel cancel, please inform the RSA office.

At the session:

  • Introduce the topic and the panelists, and inform the audience about the format.

  • If your panelists each make an initial presentation, be sure to respect time limits.

  • Have some questions that you can pose to the panelists if discussion is slow to begin.

  • Leave a few minutes at the end to wrap up. Summarize the main conclusions, note points of controversy or disagreement, and suggest where the conversation might go next.

For roundtable discussants

Before the conference:

  • Be sure you understand the goals of the session. Confirm with the organizer or chair the nature of your role in the session; the type and length of any introductory comments or presentation you should plan to give, including whether you are preparing a formal, written comment or delivering informal remarks; and the identities of the other participants and their roles.

At the session:

  • Allow the chair to direct discussion and recognize questions from the audience, for the sake of order. 

RSA Statement on Conference Collegiality and Social Media

The primary purpose of the RSA’s annual conference is to promote interdisciplinary exchange and the study of the period between 1300–1700. Recent advances in technology have opened up many new and exciting possibilities that can facilitate this exchange of ideas, and the use of social media like Twitter and Facebook at conferences has sparked a series of dynamic discussions over the best way to incorporate social media into the conference experience. We encourage members to use the new tools of social media to engage with the conference, while at the same time maintaining the basic standards of professional courtesy and collegiality that encourage open and unfettered intellectual exchange. We thus offer two basic principles for interactions at the conference. First, attributions and quotations on social media should be as clear as possible, accurately representing presenters’ arguments and ideas. Secondly, presenters, audience members, and commentators (whether in-person or online) should maintain a professional tone, avoiding personal comments or other matters one would not typically raise in a published forum.

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