In the last five years, I have had the pleasure to organize or chair more than 12 sessions on literature, language, and culture, most at the Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA) but also including three sessions at the Modern Language Association and a talk at New York University’s Edgar Allan Poe Showcase. I have worked in all capacities of conference organizing–behind the scenes, behind the podium, in the audience. Outside my capacity as Administrative and Marketing Coordinator of NeMLA, I want to share some advice for organizing a conference session, from inception to completion to follow-up, not only to help you with developing your own conferences, but also to help those who are submitting session proposals to NeMLA’s Pittsburgh convention before its April 29, 2017, deadline.
Some content below borrows from my earlier instructions for writing an abstract and for presenting at a conference. And I start below with the bureaucratic parameters, paperwork, and easier tasks before focusing on how to actually brainstorm a topic for a session. I appreciate any feedback or additional advice: based on your experiences at academic conferences, which qualities have made for successful abstracts? Which presentations came out the best? Which conferences were most satisfying? Email, tweet, or comment below what you do to develop successful session proposals!
Updated April 23, 2017, with additional advice from my colleagues.